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May 18, 2014

Juventus seal record European points haul

Ivo Pulga said it would be difficult. Cagliari’s coach may have adopted a defeatist attitude coming into the game, but we cannot accuse him of not being a realist. Juventus, playing at home and desperate to break records, controlled the match and won 3-0 to kick-start the celebrations in Turin. Nineteen games played at home in the Juventus stadium, 19 games won with 106 goals scored over the course of the season; Antonio Conte has created a winning machine, and for that the fans are grateful.

A record-breaking season, Juventus finished having amassed 102 points in the league, 17 points ahead of second-place Roma. It's the highest any team has managed in Europe’s top five leagues and certainly more than Inter’s 97 points -- the record the Nerazzurri broke in 2007.

Playing in a stadium prepared to celebrate and with a coach applauding the fans that held "Con te" banners, a play on words that means "with you," Cagliari were always going to struggle. Defending poorly, it took the champions of Italy only eight minutes to break the deadlock and score when Andrea Pirlo delivered another one of his perfect free kicks that troubled Marco Silvestri.

It was a day to celebrate the brilliance of the coach, the strength of the captain, Gianluigi Buffon, who pulled off some excellent saves, and the chemistry between the two forwards who helped turn this Bianconeri side into an efficient team. Conte’s squad was one that created but rarely finished well. With Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente up front, their ability to work well together, exploit space and hold the ball up has made all the difference this season. Eight shots on target, three goals scored.

- Pirlo to sign new deal - Platini to advise Pogba

Overall, the Spaniard has managed 18 goals this season while Tevez has netted 20 times in all competitions. Their understanding continues to develop and today we saw the brilliant Llorente dummy, the layoffs and the perfect touches while the Argentine moved around to take up excellent positions. It’s a shame he took one too many touches, overcomplicating his chance for a goal, but his work off the ball, the constant running and the hard work has turned him into a Juve hero this season, one Conte is grateful to have.

Yet while the forward line is remarkably better than it has been in previous years, it’s the midfield that continues to dazzle. Claudio Marchisio, with his excellent skill and breathtaking intelligence, scored the third, but it’s Paul Pogba who entertains the masses while Pirlo can always be relied upon for moments of magic, especially when offered the chance to take a free kick.

The fluidity, the passing, the composure shown today is what makes this Italian side so exciting to watch. The way they rotate the ball, looking for the spaces to exploit, coupled with Cagliari’s inability to provide a stern test, allowed them the win, but let us not forget that winning mentality. While Roma stopped fighting once they realised certain targets were beyond them, the Old Lady continued chasing victories despite having secured the title. Nothing satisfies her appetite.

Once the three goals were scored and the points secured, the party atmosphere took over in the stadium. The staff started to put on the T-shirts emblazoned with the figure "102" and the crowd chanted. Conte was overwhelmed with the show of support, the players each noting his excellence when talking to the media. He in turn thanked them for achieving this milestone. Juventus didn’t just win Serie A, they demolished it.

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