Fri, Mar 02, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Juventus beat Atalanta to book fourth straight final

AFP, TURIN, Italy

Holders Juventus on Wednesday defeated Atalanta BC 1-0 in a semi-final second leg played in the snow in Turin to book their ticket to the Coppa Italia final for the fourth year in a row.

The first leg ended 1-0 in Bergamo, Italy, thanks to an early Gonzalo Higuain goal, and Juventus also won the second when Miralem Pjanic slotted in a 75th-minute penalty awarded after Blaise Matuidi was fouled in the box.

The three-time holders are to play AC Milan, who battled past SS Lazio 5-4 on penalties at the Stadio Olympico after their semi-final remained goalless after extra time.

Nikola Kalinic almost scored the winner after 117 minutes, but sent the ball over the bar when alone in front of goal, sending the game to penalties.

Milan could thank the saves of teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma for a spot in the final in Rome on May 9, with centerback Alessio Romagnoli scoring the winning penalty.

“It was a night of suffering. This is a very young team, we must get them back to being the team that made the fans dream,” Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso said.

The win extended Gattuso’s unbeaten streak with AC Milan to 13 games, with six straight wins.

However, the former Milan midfielder insisted there was too much talk about him and how he has turned around the team.

“I’m not a tactical guru. I’m just a lucky guy,” Gattuso said.

Five-time winners Milan last won the Coppa Italia in 2003, with their last final in 2016.

Earlier, Juventus took on Atalanta, whose Serie A game on Sunday was snowed off, with light snowfall still in the Allianz Stadium.

“Compliments to the lads for what they did tonight and are doing this season,” coach Massimiliano Allegri said.

It will be a record 18th final for Juventus, with Allegri’s side bidding for a 13th Coppa Italia in total.

“We will play in a historical stadium, but it must not become an obsession,” Allegri said of their bid for a record fourth crown. “In the first half we had difficulty closing them down, after the break Douglas Costa started playing in a center-forward role and that broke the game open.”

Higuain missed out as he is recovering from a sprained ankle.

Atalanta had come out firing, with Alejandro Gomez sending one over the bar and Gianluigi Buffon tested as he latched on to Josip Ilicic’s deflected cross pushing over the top.

Gomez thought he had scored the equalizer for Atalanta after the break with Buffon off the line, lobbing the Juventus captain, only for the ball to bounce off the outside off the post.

The breakthrough came when Juventus were awarded a penalty when Matuidi went down under pressure from defender Gianluca Mancini, with Pjanic slotting in to the fury of Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini.

“That penalty was nonexistent,” Gasperini as his side missed out on their bid for just a second Coppa Italia title after 1963.

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