One hundred and one points in the calendar year, 100 goals scored and 42 wins in 52 games delivering the seventh consecutive Scudetto title and the fourth Coppa Italia in a row. Juve’s 2018 will go down in history and the players capped it off in perfect fashion this afternoon thanks to two goals by Cristiano Ronaldo. It was far from an easy affair and the VAR was required to step in on three occasions, but it’s fair reward for the Bianconeri’s superiority right from the start of the match.
Happy new year, Juve!
THE PERFECT START!
Paulo Dybala sent a perfect ball over to Ronaldo, who controlled and bought himself a yard from Jacopo Sala then unleashed a shot that bounced in front of Emil Audero and into the net. There wasn’t even two minutes on the clock and Juve were already 1-0 up. The Bianconeri’s lightning start, however, didn’t shake Samp from their game plan, with the visitors pressing high up the pitch in an attempt to stop the moves at source. The approach rarely paid off though, as Massimiliano Allegri’s players simply had too much quality on the ball. Ronaldo looked unstoppable down the left flank, continually firing balls into the area. Miralem Pjanic and Alex Sandro twice benefitted from this, but their efforts both missed the target.
QUAGLIARELLA FROM THE SPOT
Sampdoria tried to find a way back into the contest through shots by Dennis Praet and Fabio Quagliarella, but without troubling Mattia Perin, who was drafted into the line-up at the last moment following an injury in the warm-up to Wojciech Szczesny. In front of him the young keeper could rely on an excellent Daniele Rugani and Giorgio Chiellini in formidable mood. The skipper was not only stamping out every forward initiative by the opposition, but even had enough energy to surge up the left wing and find Dybala, who struck narrowly wide. The only criticism so far was that Juve hadn’t converted their dominance into more goals, as one moment of misfortune can so often turn things against you, which is precisely what happened in the 30th minute. Emre Can handled a Sampdoria corner and, after reviewing the VAR, Paolo Valeri pointed to the spot, which Quagliarella duly converted.
After the equaliser, the game temporarily changed track, with the Bianconeri lacking fluidity and precision and the visitors growing in confidence. But as soon as Juve settled back down, the chances started to flow again: Dybala called Audero into action from the edge of the area, Mario Mandzukic was inches from reaching Ronaldo’s cross and Chiellini nodded Pjanic’s free-kick narrowly wide.
The second half continued at the same pace and after Perin cut out Quagliarella’s diagonal shot, Blaise Matuidi drew a corner out of Audero. Pockets of space were hard to find, so Ronaldo decided to take matters into his own hands, unleashing a 30-yard shot that hit the crossbar. He was similarly unlucky moments later when, lining up a Matuidi cross, Omar Colley intercepted just in front of him. Ronaldo was able to make amends in the 63rd minute after Alex Ferrari handled in the area. Valeri again confirmed the decision with the VAR before CR7 drove the ball down the middle to restore the lead, Juve’s 100th goal of 2018.
Allegri sent on Federico Bernardeschi for Mandzukic in the 69th minute, shifting Ronaldo into the middle. Juve had a chance to kill off the game through Dybala, who put Alex Sandro’s high cross wide. Quagliarella posed the greatest threat for Doria, shooting over from the edge of the box and then just unable to convert Praet’s centre. The Bianconeri kept pushing for a winner and Ronaldo had an effort from the 18-yard line saved by Audero before the coach sent on Douglas Costa for Matuidi, switching to a 4-4-2. The points seemed already in the bag because as much as Samp tried to work an opening they were running on empty and Juve were in full control.
Just as in the first half, however, a single moment could have changed everything. Deep into additional time, Perin sliced a clearance to Gregoire Defrel, who touched in on for Riccardo Saponara to strike a curling shot into the top corner. Once again, the VAR intervened and showed that the Frenchman was in an offside position when he played the ball, so the goal was correctly disallowed.
The game finished 2-1, meaning Juve end the year with a sign of relief and 53 points in the bag.
JUVENTUS 2-1 SAMPDORIA (HT: 1-1)
SCORERS: Ronaldo 2, 65 (p), Quagliarella 33 (p).
Perin; De Sciglio, Rugani, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Can, Pjanic, Matuidi (Douglas Costa, 82); Dybala, Mandzukic (Bernardeschi, 69), Ronaldo.
Subs not used: Szczesny, Pinsoglio, Bonucci, Benatia, Spinazzola, Khedira, Kean.
Audero; Sala, Ferrari, Colley, Murru; Praet, Ekdal (Jankto, 82), Linetty; Ramirez (Saponara, 72); Caprari (Defrel, 67), Quagliarella.
Subs not used: Rafael, Belec, Tonelli, Leverbe, Rolando, Regini, Junior, Vieira, Kownacki.
ASSISTANTS: Valeriani, Vivenzi.
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Marinelli.
VAR: Maresca, Del Giovane.
YELLOW CARDS: Matuidi 36, Ferrari 37, Rugani 71, Saponara 90+3.