Juventus: Matri the unlikely hero for the Old Lady and his loyal coach Allegri

Juventus went mightily close to surrendering their chances of a possible treble, Lazio substitute Felipe Djordjevic beating goalkeeper Marco Storari early in extra-time with a rasping drive that cannoned off both posts and back out of the goalmouth. It would certainly have been contentious, Juventus’ own substitute Alessandro Matri having a goal cruelly disallowed for offside in the 87th minute of normal time of a Coppa Italia final which saw the Old Lady and the Biancocelesti match each other blow for blow from the very first whistle.

Matri however would have last laugh, sweeping home the winner after Carlos Tevez was shut-out by Lazio’s desperate defending. They were to be let down by Etrit Berisha, the goalkeeper who could have done better with the striker’s rather tame effort, but there was a felicitous quality about Matri wheeling away to celebrate the goal that had delivered his manager the second part of a domestic treble.

Matri played under Massimiliano Allegri at Cagliari for two seasons before the manager left for AC Milan while Matri was signed by Juventus. Two years later and the pair where reunited in Milan, Allegri spending €11 million on the forward and handing him the number 9 shirt. The goals would dry up though and five months later he would find himself being loaned out to Fiorentina, then Genoa last summer where an upturn in form resulted in Juventus, now managed by Allegri, take him back on another temporary spell to plug the gap left by the sale of Sebastian Giovinco to Toronto FC.

With Milan paying half of his €2.5 million salary, it was a low-risk deal for Juventus who got a fourth-choice striker who brought with him a wealth of experience and the ability to chip in with a goal when needed. He has started just 5 times since moving back to Turin in February but he has 2 vital goals to his name, the opener in the second-leg win over Fiorentina in the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia, then the winner in the final. The presence of Matri, plus Juventus’s luxury of tying up the Serie A title early, has allowed Allegri to juggle his attacking options, giving rest to Alvaro Morata, Fernando Llorente and Tevez as he chased trophies on three-fronts.

All four have now made invaluable contributions to position the Old Lady with two trophies already in the bag and with a chance to add a historic third in Berlin on June 6th. Their 10th Coppa Italia will position a silver star above their badge next season alongside three gold stars to mark 30+ league wins, but even if it won’t guarantee a star, a third European Cup will be the trophy they most covet on the 30th anniversary of when they first lifted it- the still haunting disaster of Heysel in 1985.

A fourth straight Scudetto will bring salient discussions about the league’s lack of competitiveness, they are currently 16 points ahead of second placed Roma, but the achievement of Allegri’s debut season in Turin cannot be diminished. Juventus’ director general Beppe Moratta recalls how the car he, Allegri and club president Andrea Agnelli were travelling in when the former Milan coach was brought in to replace Antonio Conte was pelted with eggs, kicked and spat at by supporters who waved a banner reading ‘We don’t want Allegri!.’

Allegri had delivered a first Scudetto to Milan since 2004 during his first season at the San Siro and overcame the departures of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alessandro Nesta and Thiago Silva to lead the Rossoneri to a third place finish in his second season. Though with Milan sat in 11th at the start of 2014 he was sacked and that sat more prevalently with Juventus fans. Allegri had been out of work since that January and arrived on a salary of €2.5 million for 2 years with lot of winning over to be done.

Arriving “amidst chaos” last July according to defender Leonardo Bonucci, 10 months later and Allegri has done far more than his original mandate. Few could have ever foreseen a third-ever domestic double let alone a chance to win a treble and it is twenty years since they last won the Coppa, when Marcelo Lippi was in charge.

Allegri took a squad that was accustomed to winning and made them win a bit more, maintaining the central core of players that had provided the spine of Conte’s hat-trick of league wins; Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba, Carlos Tevez, Giorgio Chiellini, Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Barzagli forming a fearsome spine of class mixed with endeavour and nous.

It was Juventus’ natural 3-5-2 that overcame Lazio, Chiellini and Barzagli partnering Bonucci in a seasoned back-line that is given protection by the evergreen brilliance of Andrea Pirlo in-front of them. Pogba and Vidal meanwhile do the scurrying and harrying while Tevez, scorer of 29 goals this term, leads from the front with his own fiery brand of energy. It all awaits Barcelona in Berlin in just over a week’s time.

Left-back Patrice Evra, veteran of Manchester United’s trophy-laden years, was added for £1.2 million and Alvaro Morata, the talented youngster frozen out by Real Madrid’s new wave of Galactico, was signed for £17 million. The Spaniard has returned 12 goals, including the important away goal against his former club in the semi-final of the Champions League.

Other signings included Stefano Sturaro and Roberto Pereyra who were acquired to address cover options in various areas of the squad. Plus, in February there was Matri, on Wednesday evening reminding everyone how you can’t forget about him. Allegri surely never will.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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