Juventus-Chelsea: The Old Lady Bows Out with the Utmost of Class
Everybody in Turin was saying it in the days leading up to the second leg of Juventus' Champions League clash with Chelsea. The Old Lady had to be perfect. No mistakes, plenty of offense, and a slight bit of luck go her way if she wanted to move on to the quarterfinals.
And it almost ended with Juve coming back from a 1-0 first leg deficit. However, Chelsea moved on to the quarterfinals on aggregate after drawing 2-2 with Juventus in Turin.
Manager Claudio Ranieri changed his tactics up quite a bit from what he had done for basically the entire season, throwing an aggressive trident of Alessandro Del Piero, David Trezeguet, and Vincenzo Iaquinta at his former employer.
The Tinkerman tinkered and the trident came out firing.
With the bianconeri faithful's chants turned up to maximum volume, Juve took the initiative right off the bat, attacking Petr Cech's goal early and often. And despite Pavel Nedved having to come off 13 minutes in after two brutal knocks, Juve kept throwing people forward.
Then, after a briliant flick from Trezeguet, Iaquinta fired home the evening's first goal in the far corner of the goal and sent the Turin faithful at the Stadio Olimpico into a frenzy.
Game on and the performance at Stamford Bridge all but forgotten.
But Juve only pushed further down on the gas, as Del Piero challenged Cech with a rocket of a shot from just outside the box. It wasn't one of his trademark benders, but the Juve captain could've easily made it 2-0 after just 20 minutes.
Ranieri had promised fast and fluid football at his press conference Monday and that is what they were displaying in the first half.
Then it seemed as though Lady Luck was on Juve's side as Gianluigi Buffon somehow kept a Didier Drogba free kick out of the goal.
Yet seconds later, Lady Luck Version 2.0 came, but not in the Old Lady's favor.
Just seconds before the first half whistle blew, the score was all the sudden leveled. Frank Lampard's free kick deflected off of Tiago, looped over Buffon, and found Michael Essien storming to the front of the net for the lose ball.
The once screaming crowd was left silent.
Then the future of Juventus was brought on after 60 minutes. On the biggest of stages, the tiny playmaker they call The Atomic Ant was the perfect spark for Juve as they tried to find a way to get to the quarterfinals.
Sebastian Giovinco was everywhere after his introduction to the game. The only question was, why not was he brought on sooner when Nedved was pulled off injured?
Chelsea had luck on its side once again, as a deflected Giovinco shot went rolling outside the box and Cech handled the ball outside of the box. Instead of being sent off, he was only issued a yellow card.
Lady Luck had changed her shirt to blue and her wrath was being felt.
For some reason Giorgio Chiellini was sent off. I don't know how or why. His tackle on Drogba was anything but dirty, yet the referee thought something deserved the Juve center-back to be given his walking orders after receiving his second yellow card.
Despite the outrage over Chiellini being sent off, it seemed to re-energize the offense. All hands on deck pushed forward, led by the little man Giovinco and his cupboard full of moves.
Del Piero's free kick hit Juliano Belletti's arm in the wall and gave Il Capitano a chance to step up and make it a game again. Cool, calm, and collected, the face of Juventus slid on past Cech who went the wrong way.
Game on once again.
Fifteen minutes left to get the decisive goal and it was Giovinco leading the charge once again, zooming down the left flank trying to get his hometown team the second goal they desperately needed.
But being down a man came back to bite Juve as Drogba proved too much for Olof Mellberg and scored the back breaker with seven minutes to go. Game, set, match was the thought going through every bianconeri supporter.
Disbelief was on clearly evident on Buffon and everybody else's face and the dream of a Champions League comeback was over. Despite one of their best games of the season, Juve were out and left to wonder what could've been if they had a little bit of the luck on their side.
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