The Bianconeri’s Coppa Italia defence continues after defeating Milan 2-1 in the quarter-finals on Wednesday night at Juventus Stadium.
Paulo Dybala and Miralem Pjanic, from a free-kick, saw the hosts establish a two-goal lead as early as the 21st minute before Carlos Bacca pulled one back for the Rossoneri who had Manuel Locatelli sent off just moments after halving the deficit.
In a match brimming with end to end action, the final scoreline might have been very different were it not for some misplaced shooting and fine saves, not least from Neto, but crucially tonight’s victory sets up an enticing double header with Napoli in the Coppa Italia semi-finals, as Massimiliano Allegri’s men look to make history with an unprecedented third straight success in the competition.
Riding on a wave of confidence following Sunday’s impressive performance against Lazio and visibly keen to put on another show in front of a raucous Juventus Stadium, the Bianconeri had their tails up from the start and it would take only 10 minutes before they took the lead when Dybala picked up the pieces from a corner before thumping home on the volley – La Joya’s fourth strike in as many home matches in 2017.
Just as they did only three days ago, Allegri’s charges kept up a head of steam straight after scoring the opener and capitalised on their dominance with a second goal 11 minutes afterwards – Juan Cuadrado also enjoying a good chance with a header in between.
Moments later, Juraj Kucka’s foul on the edge of the area was all the invitation Pjanic needed, as he bent an absolute beauty of a free-kick up and over the Rossoneri wall and into Gianluigi Donnarumma’s top corner, a real peach of a strike and the latest confirmation of his prowess from dead ball situations, this the Bosnian’s third goal this season from a set piece.
With Juve cruising at this stage and constantly probing for a third, Sami Khedira even had the ball in the back of the net on the half-hour mark only to see it chalked off for offside.
If the first half ended with a certain sense of satisfaction for the healthy advantage assembled, the second period did not start exactly as planned, Bacca hammering home powerfully on the volley after a couple of instances of Milan pressure in and around the Bianconeri box.
Within 60 seconds of celebrating their lifeline back into the contest however, the visitors were made to come to terms with playing the remainder of the match with ten men after Locatelli received his marching orders for a second booking on the night.
Eager to make the most of their numerical advantage, Juve created a number of chances, Mario Mandzukic sending two headers wide of the mark when well placed to do better, especially on the second occasion when Cuadrado’s cross appeared to land at the ideal height for the Croatian forward to net his second of the new year.
In the meantime, Neto needed to come to the Bianconeri’s rescue, diving low to his left to tip Kucka’s venomous drive around the post.
With just the one goal separating the sides, the final 20 minutes gave way to some frenetic football with plenty happening at both ends of the field.
Khedira could not believe his luck upon seeing his shot deflected wide by Alex Sandro’s trailing foot, while Pjanic very nearly performed the spectacular as he attempted an audacious backheel volley from Cuadrado’s delightfully drifted cross, the ball heading towards the top corner before Donnarumma got across to make the crucial block.
The Bosnian might have hoped to do better from his second free-kick of the evening, which he crashed over the crossbar, just moments after Gerard Deulofeu, making his Milan debut after completing a loan switch from Everton, nearly grabbed an equaliser, were it not for Neto making another decisive save, even if from an acute angle.
Leonardo Bonucci showed all of his match experience to drive forwards and win a late free-kick in opposition territory to help close out the win – an extremely hard-fought one at that and one which, most importantly of all, ensures the Bianconeri continue their Coppa Italia defence with a last-four meeting next month against Napoli.