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Horncastle: Pelle takes his chance

Italy Oct 14, 2014
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50-50 Challenge: AC Milan vs. Juventus

Preview Sep 19, 2014
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May 11, 2014

Title holders end Roma's home unbeaten streak

Already champions of Italy, nothing but continued success can satisfy the appetite of this Antonio Conte led Juventus.

The first team to win away to Roma, the Old Lady has now collected 99 points in the league and could well make it 102 next week at home to Cagliari. A prestigious game between the two best teams in Italy,  it was tactical, it was technical and it was passionate. But it ended 1-0.

With the two best defences taking one-another on, goals were always going to be hard to come by. But Juventus were measured, precise and fluid and that's what made the difference in the capital city tonight.

A team that at times forces the issue in attack, they are never quite as devastating or as delicious to watch as when they demonstrate teamwork and work with one-another to maintain precision and accuracy to penetrate tight defences. Occupying the right positions, looking for the right man, the intelligent decisions were made for the Old Lady to score and win the match. The curse of the ex-player suggests it was always going to be Pablo Osvaldo who dealt the killer blow, much like it was Simone Padoin who managed against Atalanta.

- Report: With both sides capable in attack and defensively sound, many expected a cagey affair, two teams that simply fought in midfield. However, it was a match that perfectly demonstrated the philosophies of both sides. Roma with their pace in attack and excellent dribbles and Juventus with their masterful teamwork and fluid passing game.

Played with great intensity to laugh in the face of cliches regarding Italian nonchalance, Gervinho’s speed exposed Juve’s weakness while simultaneously showing them what they are indeed missing. Adopting a high position on the field, the Ivorian busied the Bianconeri centre-backs and waited for his team to win back possession and allow him to launch forward at high speed.

With Giorgio Chiellini grabbing a yellow card, it was difficult to commit the necessary challenges but in essence, had Gervinho possessed more intelligence and made better decisions, he would have certainly grabbed a goal for his side.

Defensively, it’s important that Juventus close up space and remain concentrated. Too often when the Giallorossi play with speed, they are capable of opening up the gaps at the back. Several Juve players went to close down the man on the ball leaving runners such as Gervinho to exploit the gap in-between the players. On one occasion, Chiellini ought to have better positioned his body to maintain awareness while Kwadwo Asamoah needed to tighten.

The Ghanian is impeccably useful in defence but he must learn to push up when the team needs another body on the wing during the attacking phase of the game. Too often Paul Pogba was left wanting, needing a man to help him stretch the Roman backline so he could penetrate the space but instead Asamoah was too deep, not pushing forward enough to lend a helping hand. By the time he did move into the right attacking positions, Rudi Garcia’s boys had already reassembled themselves to shut down any potential threat.

Roma tried in many ways to make most they had of space to volley the ball, to hit with pace but when the Bianconeri defence dropped concentration, Marco Storari was on hand to make vital saves. In fact the match was a wonderful demonstration of great goalkeeping with the Giallorossi's Lukasz Skorupski pulling off the spectacular to keep the likes of Fernando Llorente and the rest of Juve at bay.

Speaking of the Spaniard, he demonstrated all his great qualities in this important match. His wonderful turn, his ability to hold the ball and the manner in which he taunted Mehdi Benatia should have resulted in a goal. Unfortunately for him, one is quick to forget his brilliance when he surrenders possession so easily, provoking great frustration. The striker, who benefited from Carlos Tevez’s movement today will continue to grow and settle in and hopefully offer even more next season.

However, there ought to be no room for criticism on Juventus today. All their players, including Osvaldo who scored the goal in dedication to the side he has grown to love, deserve to celebrate. They won the festival of great Italian football. They will continue to accept criticism for certain European performances but domestically they are superior to the rest, both physically and psychologically. They continue to push themselves forward until the final moments of each game.

For that, the fans are grateful, appreciative of this dedicated squad and its imperious manager. In his postmatch comments, Conte implied he may explore other avenues and one has to understand his position.

The Old Lady's supporters are never satisfied and always demanding greater achievements and it's what makes the club glorious but also what makes them a difficult team to stay with. This current squad may not possess the power to compete with the world’s best but contrary to what the manager says, it is worthy of greater accomplishments should they reinforce this summer.

The midfield is outstanding, combining the skills of the three highly coveted players in the world. The backline is the one that helped Cesare Prandelli reach the Euro 2012 final and will represent Italy in Brazil while the forward line has proved exceptional for their first season in Serie A. With greater quality on the wings and more intelligence upfront, there is every reason to believe in European success in the future.

Fans pray Conte will commit. If he does, success is all but guaranteed but if he doesn’t, the Bianconeri will continue along their path and will find their way back to the top. They won before him and they will after him. It is the structure, the framework, the devotion of the great Agnelli family and the pioneering work of all who work within Juve’s walls that has put the team at the forefront of calcio and for that reason, we must trust in the vision.