Ronaldo nears another trophy despite penalty woe as Juventus edge out AC Milan to reach Coppa Italia final

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All roads lead to Rome: Ronaldo nears another trophy despite penalty woe as Juventus edge out AC Milan to reach Coppa Italia final

 

A burst of early action that included a VAR check, the rare sight of a missed penalty by Cristiano Ronaldo and the dismissal of Ante Rebic for a wild challenge proved the highlight as Juventus reached the Coppa Italia final.

The much-anticipated return of elite football in Italy failed to deliver the drama it had promised when it momentarily burst into life with 15 minutes gone.

A lengthy VAR check – an element of the sport that many fans may not have missed during the pandemic – ended with a penalty being awarded to Juventus for hand ball, which Ronaldo strode forward with typical confidence to take as the hosts looked to build on their 1-1 draw in the first leg at the San Siro.

Ronaldo earned that draw with a last-gasp penalty, but this time he drilled a low effort against the foot of Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma’s right-hand post, allowing Milan to rush the rebound clear.

As the ball bounced towards the center circle on the left, Ante Rebic produced a wild, studs-up challenge towards Danilo’s chest, receiving a red card for his recklessness that made Milan’s mission even tougher on a night when they needed to score to avoid going out on away goals in the event of a goalless draw.

Looking to take advantage, the Portugal captain fired over the bar and Blaise Matuidi provided Donnarumma with an easy save in the midfielder’s first appearance since his recovery from Covid-19, joining Ronaldo’s strike partner, Paulo Dybala, as one of two Juve starters to have tested positive for the virus.

Milan went closest four minutes after the restart when Turkish midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu headed wide from a promising position, but the visitors never looked likely to score the goal they needed against the run of play.

With both sides looking somewhat tired after three months without a competitive match, Simon Kjaer showed timely alertness to divert a cross away from the lurking Matthijs de Ligt before heading a half-chance wide at the other end from a free-kick.

That was as close as the visitors came in a training ground environment behind closed doors, beginning with both sets of players, who had entered the stadium in masks and warmed up in shirts bearing anti-racism messages, observing a minute’s silence in honour of health workers in Italy, which has suffered almost 35,000 deaths as a result of the virus.

Juventus now face a quick turnaround ahead of their 19th Coppa Italia final in Rome on Wednesday, when they will look to win the trophy for the 14th time against Napoli or Inter Milan, who meet on Saturday night in their second leg at the San Paolo Stadium, when the hosts will start with a 1-0 lead.

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