There were widespread reports of a robbery in the Firenze region late on Wednesday night as a group of men, donning black and white stripes, sucked the souls out of 40,000 previously raucous Fiorentina supporters.
How Juventus escaped the Artemio Franchi with a first leg advantage in their Coppa Italia semi-final tie I do not know. But the victory was oh so sweet for Juventini considering the environment in which their players, most notably Dusan Vlahovic, were forced to play.
La Viola, buoyed by their resentful home crowd, dominated proceedings for the best part of 80 minutes, but an own goal from local lad Lorenzo Venuti at the death undermined the stellar efforts of Vincenzo Italiano’s side. They now have it all to do in the second leg next month following Juve’s late away goal.
3 takeaways as Juventus escape Florence with first leg win
Here are three takeaways from Juventus’ victory over Fiorentina in the first leg of their semi-final tie.
Italiano outmanoeuvres Allegri
Italiano has emerged as one of Italy’s brightest coaching prospects since he took Spezia up to Serie A and impressively kept them up in their first-ever season in the top-flight. He’s the embodiment of the new-age Italian coach and his prestige has continued to grow in Florence this season.
Fiorentina had fallen into obscurity before Italiano arrived and they flirted with the prospect of relegation in 2020/21 before a late surge kept them up but a comfortable margin. The former Spezia boss has re-established La Viola’s fading identity and Wednesday night’s outing was a testament to his modern ideals.
While he was eventually dealt a sucker-punch akin to Victor Ortiz against Floyd Mayweather, we shouldn’t overlook Italiano’s comprehensive victory against his traditional counterpart Massimiliano Allegri.
Juventus’ 3-5-2 matched up well with Fiorentina’a 4-3-3 and vice-versa. On paper, it should’ve been a tight affair in which neither side could gain control, but Fiorentina were dominant. Their press was masterfully orchestrated and they laid bare the Bianconeri’s build-up woes. La Viola suffocated the visitors via their work without the ball, while their build-up completely contrasted the frantic nature of Juve’s.
The hosts were cool, composed and appeared to have total faith in Italiano’s structure. They were able to retain possession under pressure, utilise depth as a means to progress and manipulate Juve’s pressing structure due to the length of their build-up sequences.
As a result of their superb press and well-coached build-up, Fiorentina gained total control of the contest. They even out-performed Juve in the phase where the Bianconeri supposedly excel: in transition. While the visitors dithered in such moments, La Viola were swift and decisive. Their best chances came on the break, but they were unable to convert. Jonathan Ikoné came close on two occasions; hitting the post early on in the second half.
Unfortunately for Italiano, it was the wily Allegri who came out on top. The veteran had tortured the hosts into surrender via Venuti’s own goal at the death.