AC Milan best Juventus on penalties to win Italy’s Super Cup

Doha, Dec 24 (IANS) A highly-spirited AC Milan hoisted their seventh Supercoppa Italiana football trophy after prevailing against heavy favourites Juventus via a penalty shoot-out 4-3 (1-1) at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium here.

Seventeen-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was the hero for the historic club Rossoneri, making a superb stop against Juventus’ Paulo Dybala with the sides knotted at 3-3 in the shoot-out on Friday, reports Efe.

With the victory, AC Milan equalled Juventus in the number of Supercoppa trophies and exposed some vulnerabilities in the reigning Serie A and Coppa Italia champions. This trophy was Milan’s first in the last five years.

After the win, Milan head coach Vincenzo Montella told his club’s TV: “I told the boys to play without fear, because only those who believe themselves to be the strongest take home the result, and today they did so.

“This is really a great victory, deserved and hard fought. We had that bit of luck when Dybala missed in front of goal, but I am relly happy for these boys, for (club CEO Galliani) and for the President (Silvio Berlusconi). We are creating a solid basis for the future. I am really pleased.”

Juventus, coming into the match off the back of four straight wins in all competitions, were the much stronger team in the early going. The defending champions took a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute thanks to Giorgio Chiellini, who beat Donnarumma with a thunderous header off a Miralem Pjanic corner.

Ineffectual on the attack for the first third of the match, AC Milan gained confidence as the minutes passed and pulled level with a goal in the 38th minute, as Giacomo Bonaventura surprised veteran Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon with a header off a cross from Suso.

It was the seventh headed goal conceded this season by Juventus, who have boasted the best defence in Serie A over the past five years.

The stage was set for an exciting, high-tempo second half, but the respective goalkeepers outdid the strikers and forced the match into extra time.

Alessio Romagnoli headed against the crossbar before Sami Khedira forced Donnarumma into a smart stop with a long-range strike.

Dybala almost handed the Bianconeri the lead with two fine left-footed efforts, the first skidding just inches past the post and the second, a trademark curled strike from distance, well saved by Donnarumma.

AC Milan nearly scored at the start of the first overtime, but Carlos Bacca misfired from short range after Buffon stopped Bonaventura.

Patrice Evra, a first-half sub for injured Alex Sandro, found the net for Juventus only to see the goal called back for a well-warranted offside.

Then with four minutes remaining, Dybala missed a golden opportunity to score a potential winner when he scooped over the bar from just a matter of yards out.

With the score still 1-1 after 120 minutes, the contest went to penalties. Claudio Marchisio, Gonzalo Higuain and Sami Khedira all scored from the spot, while Mario Mandzukic and Dybala missed out.

Buffon blocked Gianluca Lapadula but Bonaventura, Juraj Kucka, Suso made it 3-3. After Donnarumma thwarted Dybala, Mario Pasalic converted to grab the trophy for AC Milan.

Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri admitted that injury to Sandro forced them to change his plans and it affected the performance.

“We started very well, before dropping too deep after the goal and playing it around at the back. But ultimately defeats like these can happen. We weren’t beaten over 120 minutes — we only lost on penalties. It’s a shame, we could have won it towards the end had we been more composed.”

“Injuries cost us dearly,” continued the coach. “I don’t mean those who came on — they did well — but because we had to make enforced changes. The talking points become crucial in matches like these and indeed it finished on penalties.”

–IANS

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