Rome, Jun 12 (efe-epa).- Italian soccer’s return Friday after a halt of more than three months due to the coronavirus featured some drama but no goals.
The second leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal at Turin’s Allianz Stadium between Juventus and AC Milan ended 0-0, allowing the Bianconeri to advance on the strength of their away goal in February’s 1-1 first leg at the San Siro.
Juve will be playing for their 14th Coppa Italia championship in next Wednesday’s final at Rome’s Olympic stadium, where they will face either Napoli or Inter Milan.
Napoli have a 1-0 advantage over Inter Milan heading into the second leg of their semifinal on Saturday.
Before the kickoff on Friday, players and match officials were joined in the middle of the pitch at the Allianz by medical workers for a minute of silence to honor the more than 34,000 Italians killed by Covid-19.
Juventus, led up front by Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa, dominated possession from the opening whistle and got an opportunity to settle the tie in the 16th minute when the referee awarded a penalty for an inadvertent hand-ball by Milan’s Andrea Conti.
But Ronaldo hit the post, only his second miss from the spot since joining Juventus in 2018.
Milan’s reprieve last barely 10 seconds, the time it took for Ante Rebic to earn a straight red card for an egregious foul on Juve’s Danilo.
The 10-man visiting side did their best to slow the pace, yet it was only the play of Gianluigi Donnarumma in goal that allowed Milan to reach half-time without conceding.
Milan defended tenaciously, but it was a lack of finishing by Juve that kept the visitors in the contest.
The Italian soccer federation has followed the examples of their counterparts in Germany, Spain and England in expanding the number of substitutions from three to five to compensate for the unusual conditions arising from the pandemic.
Bianconeri coach Mauricio Sarri took advantage of the new rule to make a triple-change in the 63rd minute, deploying Federico Bernardeschi, Adrien Rabiot and Sami Khedira, in search of a goal to seal the victory, Donnarumma proved equal to the task when the Juve strikers managed to put shots on target.
The closest Milan came to scoring was Simon Kjaer’s header off a corner in the 78th minute, which went just wide. EFE am/dr