Champions Juventus broke AC Milan’s record of 42 matches unbeaten as they finished the Serie A season undefeated with a 3-1 win over Atalanta BC on Sunday.
It was also the perfect send-off after 19 years with the Old Lady for club captain Alessandro Del Piero, who took the armband for the final time in a Serie A game in Juve’s colors and netted his team’s second goal.
Youngster Luca Marrone scored the opener and Andrea Barzagli netted a last-minute penalty as Juve finished the season with 84 points, four clear of last year’s champions Milan.
The only blips were a late own-goal by Stephan Lichsteiner and an injury to centerback Giorgio Chiellini that could put his Euro 2012 participation at risk.
The victory meant Juve took their unbeaten run in all competitions to 43 games, including the final match of last season, a record for an Italian team.
They also produced the first unbeaten Serie A campaign since AC Milan in 1992 and the first since Italy moved from an 18 to a 20-team league.
“The aim was to remain unbeaten and to celebrate with our own fans,” coach Antonio Conte said. “We managed that and that had never happened in a 20-team league. This is a legendary season because in the future no one will ever be able to beat what we’ve done, only equal it. No one ever gave us anything and that’s reason for great pride. Del Piero played like a champion once again, but I told him the season isn’t over because he must been decisive again on Sunday in the Italian Cup final against Napoli.”
If they avoid defeat in next weekend’s final, Juve will become the first team to go an entire season unbeaten in the league and cup, although they were helped by not playing in Europe.
Their clash with Atalanta was little more than a glorified friendly.
The game descended into near farce in the second period when Conte decided to substitute Del Piero so he could receive a rapturous ovation from the fans.
He got that, but the sight of a league match being held up for at least a couple of minutes to affect a substitution while all his teammates joined him in the center-circle to salute him seemed like a scene from a testimonial match.
With the game ongoing, he then embarked on a lap of honor to salute the fans.
Milan finished their season with a the perfect party scenario as 38-year-old Filippo Inzaghi scored the winner on his 300th and final appearance for the club before retiring in a 2-1 win over Novara Calcio.
“I’m spent, now it’s hard to give up everything, my legs are there, I don’t have any pain,” the man of the moment said. “After the cruciate knee ligament operation, I got well again. Playing a long way from Milan is so hard, but I will return to this club.”
With popular stalwarts Inzaghi, Gennaro Gattuso and Alessandro Nesta all making their final bow in a Milan shirt, the match took time to come to life.
Gattuso captained the side, but looked a shadow of his former self, while the biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for Inzaghi’s entry from the bench.
It was Inzaghi’s 156th goal in Serie A and just to top things off, it was fellow veteran Clarence Seedorf who played the pass.
Udinese secured third place and the final Champions League qualification position with a 2-0 win at Catania.
Emblematic captain Antonio Di Natale gave them a 19th-minute lead on a counterattack and Diego Fabbrini sealed the victory in the 58th minute.