Italian football returned as an underwhelming Juventus side edged into the Coppa Italia final with a 0-0 draw against an AC Milan side who played with 10 men for 75 minutes.
The aggregate score was 1-1, but the away goal that Juve picked up at the San Siro before the extended break due to Covid 19 was enough to see them through. The most notable acts of the game were a missed penalty from Cristiano Ronaldo and a red card for Ante Rebic.
Juve made a very high tempo start to the game, with Douglas Costa flashing a shot just wide of the post in the first minute. Bedlam, however, unfolded 15 minutes later. Juve were given a penalty following a VAR check for a very soft handball by right back Andrea Conti. Ronaldo stepped up and drilled the penalty into the base of the left-hand post.
Only six seconds later, however, Rebic was sent off after he lunged with his studs showing at head height, and Danilo was very lucky to get away unscathed. Referee Daniele Orsato initially brandished a yellow card, but immediately changed his mind and gave the Croatian his marching orders. The challenge was reminiscent of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic kung-fu-style finish. The Swede missed this fixture through injury.
That meant Milan had to score without reply to reach the final in Rome. The stage looked set for the Bianconeri, who have won the Coppa Italia 13 times, to flex their muscles and put Milan to the sword. Instead, they looked extremely passive, and failed to create many clear-cut chances at all.
Milan were very impressive considering their numerical disadvantage. They defended resolutely, with Simon Kjaer standing out at centre back as a key performer. They lacked the cutting edge going forward though. There was a host of long-range shots, giving the impression that the forwards were trying to win corners via deflections. It was from a corner that the Rossoneri came closest to snatching victory. Kjaer flashed a header just wide of the near post after 78 minutes, and his facial expression suggested he should have scored.
Another impressive performer for Milan was Franck Kessie, who was very busy in the midfield and kept Miralem Pjanic out the game completely. Interestingly, Pjanic was moved out to the right of the midfield three, with Rodrigo Bentancur taking his place in the middle. This may be significant considering how often the Bosnian midfielder is being linked with a move away from Turin.
One major disappointment for Milan is that the winners of the Coppa Italia achieves a place in the group stage of next season’s Europa League. While they are in 7th position in Serie A, European qualification is certainly not guaranteed for Stefano Pioli’s men.
Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus will play either Napoli or Inter Milan in the final, which takes place on the 17th June. The second leg of that tie takes place on Saturday at 20:00 BST. Napoli took a valuable 1-0 win at the San Siro in the first leg and will be looking to seal the deal at the San Paolo.