Juventus came from a goal down to beat AC Milan 3-2 at the Juventus Stadium, moving the Azzuri just two points off AS Roma at the top of the Serie A table.
The away side took a shocking lead within 20 seconds when Sulley Muntari poked in, but goals from Andrea Pirlo, Sebastian Giovinco and Giorgio Chiellini had victory in sight for the Old Lady.
It got worse for Milan when Phillipe Mexes was given his marching orders in the final ten minutes and Muntari’s second of the night could do nothing to stop an important home win.
Antonio Conte made three changes to the side that disappointed in a 1-1 draw with Galatasaray in midweek, but his team seemed to suffer with a European hangover as they fell behind within the first minute. Antonio Nocerino let fly from the edge of the box and although he mishit his shot, Muntari punched to poke past Gianluigi Buffon from six yards. It was the perfect start for Milan who have had a bad start to the season and sit near the bottom half of the table.
One of the reasons for Milan’s poor start has been defensive woes and they nearly came back to haunt the Rossineri in the eighth minute. Arturo Vidal did well to pick out the run of Fabio Quagliarella but the striker blasted over from ten yards out. It was a great chance and a missed opportunity for the man who is looking to force his way into a regular playing spot under Conte.
Christian Abbiati was the busier of the two goalkeepers in the opening 20 minutes and the Milan shot-stopper made two good saves to keep out long-range efforts from Kwadwo Asamoah and Chiellini. Unfortunately for the away side, the goalkeeper stood no chance when Juventus equalised in the 15th minute.
Andrea Pirlo spent ten fruitful years with Milan from 2001 to 2011 but it was a goal against his former club that had the fans purring. The midfielder is well-known for his free-kicks and proved why as he curled the ball over the wall from 30 yards and it dipped into the bottom corner. Abbiati did get a strong palm on the ball, but the free-kick was too good to keep out and Juventus had the momentum in their favour.
Pirlo was pulling the strings especially from set-pieces, but Juve couldn’t find another goal before half-time. They should have in the 17th minute, but Leonardo Bonucci headed wide from six yards while up the other end, Buffon was forced into a good save from Christian Zapata’s long-range strike.
The second half continued to be a nervy game, with both sides creating chances. Abbiati was at his best to keep out Vidal’s volley from a Kevin Constant’s poor clearance but Buffon went one better with a world class save to keep Milan from going back in front after 52 minutes. Alessandro Matri, who moved to the San Siro from Juventus in the summer, did well to slide the ball through for Robinho but the veteran Italian goalkeeper pulled off a miraculous save to deny the attacker from close range.
The game was looking to be about whose defence would hold out and unsurprisingly, it was the away side who faltered as the reigning champions took control of the game. Just minutes after Asamoah flashed just over, Conte threw on Giovinco in the hope of adding a different attacking threat and the substitute repaid his manager’s faith with a goal in the 69th minute.
It was another good goal from the home side as the tricky Italian picked up the ball, drove into the penalty area and skipped away from Zapata’s challenge before firing low past Abbiati from ten yards. It was a terrific finish and an immediate impact from Giovinco, who had only been on the field for one minutes and 48 seconds when he put his side in front.
Juve’s mission became easier when Milan were reduced to ten men with 16 minutes to go. Mexes tripped Tevez from behind with a foul that is usually a yellow card offence, but after the defender continued to show dissent to the referee, the yellow quickly turned into a red card and Milan had their work cut out for them.
It got worse for the away side as Juve made it 3-1 from the resulting free-kick. Pirlo’s effort at goal was brilliant again, but the ball thumped back off the crossbar. Fortunately for Juve, Chiellini was the first to react as the defender sent the ball flying into the net from 15 yards with an instinctive volley.
The game was over for Milan, but they never stopped fighting and managed to pull a goal back in the final minute. It was a mistake from Paul Pogba that led to the goal as the promising midfielder held on to the ball for too long which allowed Muntrari to nick in. The Ghanaian international drove forward and smashed a shot at goal and the ball took a slight deflection off Bonucci past the helpless Buffon into the bottom corner.
With the win, Juve pulled level on points with second-placed Napoli while Milan dropped to 13th in the table with another disappointing loss.
Match Report by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)