22 April 2022
Juventus Under 19 produced a spirited display to come back from two goals down after 10 minutes to take the semi-final to penalties against Benfica, who were reduced to 10 men when their goalkeeper was sent off in the first half. Ange Chibozo and Riccardo Turicchia scored spectacular goals to tie the match, but with the fifth, and what proved to be final, spot kick Matias Soulé’s effort was saved, allowing Benfica to win 4-3 on penalties.
The starting XI set out by coach Andrea Bonatti contained as much experience as possible against Benfica, a club making a record-equalling 69th appearance in the UEFA Youth League. Koni De Winter, Matias Soulé and Fabio Miretti, three players with first team experience this season, the latter two were even on the bench at the Allianz Stadium in the Coppa Italia win over Fiorentina, were drafted in from kick off.
However, it was the Portuguese side that started with aplomb, with two goals inside the opening 10 minutes. In the third minute, Miretti was dispossessed inside his own penalty area and when the ball was fed to Martin Neto, he curled his shot beyond Zsomber Zenko in the Juve goal.
Before Juventus had time to reorganise, they found themselves two goals down. Following a strong run down the left, Rafael Rodriguez fed the ball into the area to Luìs Semedo. The number 9 crashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner.
LOOKING FOR A FOOTHOLD
The Juventus youngsters had to find a way back into the contest, and almost did so on the half hour. A searching pass from Miretti picked out Soulé. The Argentine squared the ball inside the box to Ange Chibozo. His well-struck shot cannoned back off the crossbar. Chibozo then sprinted past the Benfica defence and arrived at the edge of the six-yard area, only to shoot into the side netting.
Juventus had unsettled their opponents, a point that was underlined on 35 minutes. A long ball invited Gabriele Mulazzi to use his speed down the flank. Sensing the danger, Samuel Soares came racing outside of his penalty area and launched himself at the ball, taking Mulazzi with him. The referee did not hesitate to flash the red card at the Benfica goalkeeper.
The scorer of the second goal, Semedo made way for reserve keeper Andre Gomes, who would be called into action after the break, when Coach Bonatti went all-out attack, replacing defender Nicolò Savona with forward Nicolò Turco.
And on 51’, Juventus hauled themselves back into the contest when Chibozo unleashed another ferocious drive, which crashed in off the underside of the crossbar.
Trailing now by just one goal with a player more, Juventus sensed that the match was within reach. Benfica were sitting deep, attempting to keep Juve at a safe distance. When De Winter hit from long range, only fingertips from Gomez kept the ball out.
On 75’ the Benfica keeper could only watch as the ball flew past him for Juve’s equaliser. The unlikely scorer was full-back Riccardo Turicchia, whose half volley from the edge of the area sent the Bianconeri support into raptures.
Two minutes later, the ball broke to Chibozo, who swivelled at the height of the penalty spot but fired his shot over the bar. That was to be the last chance over the 90 minutes as, without extra time, the match went straight to a penalty shoot-out.
SPOT KICK SORROW
Both teams were faultless from their first two penalties. The third penalty for Benfica, from Hugo Felix, struck the post and rebounded to safety. However, next up, Nicolò Turco saw his effort saved. With the fifth and final penalty, up stepped Soulé, who knew he had to score to send the contest to sudden death. However, the Benfica keeper guessed correctly and save the Argentine’s left-footed effort.
Juventus Under 19’s Final Four adventure was over at the last hurdle before the final, but what an adventure!
Andrea Bonatti: “We are disappointed. This sense of disappointment is shared by all of us. As I told the boys, ‘that’s life’. Today I have nothing to add or to complain about, I am really proud. We started the game in a way that would have knocked out anyone, then step by step we came back into it, first when Chibozo hit the crossbar, then in the second half with the goals. It is a tough lesson for the lads but we’re going home with our heads held high."
Samuel Iling: “Losing on penalties hurts, but it happens. This match and this competition has given us confidence, we have talented players and a great coach. Now we need to get back to the championship, to end the season in the best possible way and show our quality."
Andrea Bonetti: "The only negative thing to come out of this is the ending. We honoured the competition and this Final Four, which was historic for us. We are proud, also with today's performance. Benfica attacked us at the beginning, but with the red card, we understood that the game could change. We stepped up a gear in the second half and we produced a great performance."
JUVENTUS 2-2 (3-4 PENS) BENFICA (HT: 0-2)
Scorers: 3’ Neto (B), 10' Semedo (B), 51’ Chibozo (J), 73’ Turicchia (J)
Penalties scored: Araùjo (B), Iling (J), Silva (B), Miretti (J), Neto (B), Hasa (J), Sequeira (B)
Penalties missed: Felix (B), Turco (J), Soulé (J)
JUVENTUS: Senko; Savona (46′ Turco), De Winter, Muharemovic (66′ Hasa), Turicchia (87′ Rouhi); Mulazzi, Bonetti (85′ Cerri), Miretti, Iling; Chibozo, Soulè.
Subs not used:Scaglia, Nzouango, Sekularac.
BENFICA: Soares; Rodrigues, Silva, Araujo, Tomè; Neto, Jevsenak (84′ Marques), N’Dour (89′ Felix); Moreira (89′ Resende), Semedo (37′ Gomes), Santos (84′ Nuno Fèlix).
Subs not used: Ferreira, Dju.
ASSISTANTS: Schaap, De Nas
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Tschudi
BOOKINGS: 45' Miretti (J), 82’ Hasa (J)
SENDING OFF: 35’ Soares (B)