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50-50 Challenge: AC Milan vs. Juventus

Preview Sep 19, 2014
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Round of 16

#UltimateUCL Sep 10, 2014
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Apr 20, 2014

Pogba pushes Juventus closer to Serie A glory

What more can you say about a side that managed their 17th home win? Juventus somehow found a way to bypass a parked bus and defeat negative Bologna 1-0 to take one giant step toward their third consecutive title. Roma may believe and they may be starving for trophies, but their hunger has only served to push the Bianconeri on and ignite their competitive edge. This is their Scudetto, and they will do all they can to achieve it.

Whilst the match looked to be easy on paper, Davide Ballardini’s has proved to be a difficult opponent to take on. After all, he has halted the Bianconeri train before. His sides are always organised, his players tenacious and eager. He has travelled to the Juventus Stadium with two different teams and managed to take a point home with him on both occasions. On Jan. 15, 2012, his Cagliari side managed an equaliser via Andrea Cossu to leave Alessandro Del Piero and Co. with a 1-1 score line. One year later Ballardini returned, this time with Genoa. Yet again his team found the equaliser to snatch a 1-1 draw in Turin, scored by former Bianconeri forward Marco Borriello.

- Report: Juventus 1-0 Bologna - Conte: No talks on contract

This time, Ballardini walked away with nothing. His Bologna side did as much and perhaps even more than his previous teams at Juve’s home, but this Old Lady has matured. With Roma salivating over the prospect of a draw or loss in order to close the gap, Juventus have refined their technique and bettered their mentality to ensure a victory was achieved no matter the difficulty. Their hunger to collect points and secure their third consecutive title is nothing short of admirable. Repeated victories have done little to satisfy their appetite for more trophies, and they continue to chase them with ferocious determination.

However, one must credit the Felsinei for their valiant defensive displays even if it hardly made for entertaining viewing. Defending so deep, their lines tight and the gaps closed, the away side quite forcefully crowded the area and blocked the passage to goal. There was no room to operate, no way of piercing through for the Bianconeri. Showing little ambition in going forward, Bologna proved ineffective in the attacking phase of the game, preferring to sit back and hold on for a draw, and they very nearly managed to grab the coveted point.

Paul Pogba was unable to make the most of a few early chances whilst Andrea Pirlo failed to tantalise from his free-kicks but that didn’t stop Juve trying. Sebastian Giovinco proved dazzling with his mobility yet again. Pushing, passing and running, he thoroughly annoyed the opposing back line that attempted to track him and often resorted to fouling him -- in dangerous areas. Gliding past players and looking for the right pass, he offered Juventus a glimmer of hope, but he wasn’t quite enough. For a long time it seemed the Old Lady and her forwards didn’t have an answer to such a determined display of defensive football.

Kwadwo Asamoah proved indecisive in penetrating the left wing and rarely positioned himself well in the final third. He ought to have pushed forward more to offer another alternative for that decisive pass or even to busy a defender in hopes of dragging him out of position to create a gap. Instead he prioritised his defensive duties, ensuring that should his opponents counter, he’d be prepared to stop them. Mauricio Isla on the opposite flank also struggled to provide more, his crossing inadequate whilst his runs rarely troubled his markers.

The only way the Felsinei could be beaten was if they decided to attack, leaving some room at the back to exploit or if Juventus sped up their movements to overwhelm the organised lines. The latter has proved to be a problem for the Old Lady as their attempts to inject pace into their manoeuvres has usually resulted in imprecision and inaccurate play. However, they did just enough to create a little space for Pogba to score the only goal of the game -- the goal that takes Juventus one step closer to lifting another Championship trophy and solidifying his reputation as the next generation’s greatest talent.

They were hardly beautiful and barely interesting to watch, but Juve’s cynicism is what made the difference. Conte was right in saying that in previous years, a game like this would have resulted in a draw, but the fact Juve won demonstrates growth and leaves them on course for a spectacular end to the season.