Sunday, April 3, 2011

Krasic and Matri Lead The Way For Juventus

Juve close gap on RomaIf anymore pressure was needed, the results by Udinese and Lazio earlier today combined to make this game even more important than it had first seemed. In the day's early match Lazio succumbed to a Napoli come back and fell 4-3 to Walter Matzarri's men. Just hours later, Champions League chasing Roma were given another boost as high flying Udinese lost 2-0 to Lecce. The stage was set for a fantastic match, between two teams who have faced difficult seasons, but are both looking to end on a high.

The match started very evenly, with neither side risking too much in the early stages (a look back at Pato's early goal in the Milan derby shows what an early loss in concentration can do to a team), but after four minutes, the first chance arrived, as Simone Pepe arrowed a shot just over from the corner of the penalty area.

However, the first half was not to be defined by that Pepe shot, but by a series of brilliant saves from Juve shot stopper Marco Storarri. First, a Mirko Vucinic effort from the edge of the box was palmed wide by the keeper, before the former Milan man made an even more breathtaking save from Totti minutes later.

With thirty minutes on the clock, and Roma bossing proceedings, it seemed only a matter of time before the Giallorossi opened the scoring, and as Totti connected sweetly with a back post volley, courtesy of a lovely cross from Vucinic, it seemed for all the world like Roma were set to take the lead. But Storarri, in a moment of genius, was somehow able to get a hand on it, allowing the dribbling ball to be cleared to safety by the Juventus defense. The save had a very game changing feel about it, and in reflection it may well have been that save which tipped the balance of affairs towards Luigi Del Neri's men.

Fittingly, the half ended with another stunning Storarri save, as the Italian keeper's finger tips just managed to divert a De Rossi blaster wide of goal. Roma were ending the half on the ascendancy, but in the second half, things were set to change drastically.

The second period started in the worst possible way for Roma as, just minutes after influential mifielder Mexes limped off with an injury, Juventus took the lead.

Released down the wing, Juventus full back Fabio Grosso took his time in chipping an accurate ball to the center of the penalty area, where it was met by a sweet, sweet, Milos Krasic volley, which hit the back of the net. That strike was the Serb's seventh of the Serie A season, and just another addition to a collection of masterful goals that the former CSKA Moscow man is starting to accumulate.

Clearly rattled, Roma continued to press forward, and in the seventy second minute, they were unlucky not to equalize as Jeremy Menez rattled the frame of the goal with a powerful shot from a tight angle.

Desperate to score, Roma were throwing more and more men upfield, and it was no surprise when Juventus struck the killer goal on the counter attack. A simple ball played through released Matri into acres of space, and with only the keeper between him and the net, there was never any doubt that the recently capped Italian international would finish. On this occasion, a sliding, side footed shot, through the legs of Doni did the trick, and gave Juve a precious two goal advantage.

Down two goals, the pressure was on Roma to attack, but with creative midfielder Pizzaro struggling to carve out any clear chances, a Roma goal looked unlikely.

The closest Roma came to getting a goal back was through a Taddei shot from the edge of the area, which was easily saved by man-of-the-match Marco Storarri.

As the final whistle blew, a huge sense of disappointment around the stadium was practically tangible, Roma had thrown away a valuable opportunity to make-up ground on their Champions League rivals, and with games starting to run out, Roma may well have to get used to the idea of Europa League football.

For Juventus though, this match has the potential to be a catalyst for a late run, but as fans of the Old Lady have learned following terrific wins over both Milan and Inter, form in the big games has rarely been  followed up by performances against the small teams.

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