Gonzalo Higuain and Gianluigi Buffon's heroics lift Juve past Atalanta
A rampant and electric start from Juventus led to the early and only goal of the match as they defeated Atalanta 1-0 in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semifinal, registering what could be a vital away goal in the process.
Determined to take this trophy seriously, Juventus came out with all guns blazing, stretching Atalanta's defence and playing with mobility and intense pressure in the early stages. The home side were simply stunned for much of the early part of the game and took time to settle in, forced to defend against an ambitious opponent.
Once Juve calmed down, Atalanta began to play as they do but lacked the quality to pierce through an organised defence. The Bianconeri did eventually tire in the second half but could still rely on their superior ability and experience to close out the game and secure the narrow win.
Another clean sheet for the Old Lady and another goalkeeping masterclass from Gianluigi Buffon who not only saved the penalty but remained alert to any potential danger. He may be 40 but he is still as agile and alert as he ever was.
In the final third, Juventus must improve by actually finishing the many chances they create or at the very least provide support for the striker when counterattacking. Far too often Gonzalo Higuain was left alone looking for a player to pass to in hopes of creating attacking danger.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- The manner in which Massimiliano Allegri's side attacked in the first 15 minutes is how they should always play, with fluidity, mobility and exciting intensity. Getting the early goal allowed them to utilise their experience and close out the match. Allegri prepared for this game expertly as always while his side show no signs of slowing down in their quest for a treble or a double at the very least.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK, Gianluigi Buffon, 8 -- The 40-year-old legend never disappoints, making a wonderful save on Papu Gomez's first-half penalty. Few can read the game as well as he does, coming off his line to rescue Juve and always remaining alert to any potential danger.
DF Mattia De Sciglio, 5 -- Not the performance we expected from the youngster who had been impressing until now. The pace of the game saw him lose his bearings and he was unable to provide authority on the left on this night.
DF Medhi Benatia, 6 -- Conceded the penalty but otherwise was always in the right place at the right time. Good determination and ambition shown to help and cover for his teammates, but Atalanta's relentless ways forced a few more errors than we have grown accustomed to from the defender.
DF Giorgio Chiellini, 7 -- We have come to always expect the best from the mighty warrior who reads danger so well and plays with intensity at every opportunity, blocking the opponent from doing anything.
DF Alex Sandro, 5 -- Good footwork to get out of trouble when on the ball but often loses concentration, forcing his teammates to aid him. Needs to get back to providing a full 90 minutes of alert and effective play.
MF Sami Khedira, 7 -- Perhaps the smartest player on the pitch in a tactical sense. Knew exactly how to operate and where to run to provide for the team both in defence and attack.
MF Miralem Pjanic, 6 -- Nice energy and intensity, pressing the opponent viciously in the first half while overcoming Atalanta's press well. However, the player needs to learn how to create time for himself and deliver what is necessary in terms of passes rather than revert to instinct when the opponent applies pressure as Atalanta did today. Still, he always provides danger even if he wasn't very good from dead-ball situations.
MF Blaise Matuidi, 6 -- Had some excellent chances to score which he spurned. Positioned himself well and provided energy, but at times he comes across as too chaotic when composure is required, resulting in errors.
FW Douglas Costa, 5 -- Started well but faded as the match progressed, offering little when he was required to help relieve the pressure and provide an outlet.
FW Gonzalo Higuain, 8 -- Very, very good tonight and the best player on the pitch, especially in the first few minutes as he showed his full range of abilities. Sadly, wasn't supported well on the counter, often with no one to pass to when he did make a good run forward before eventually being crowded out.
FW Mario Mandzukic, 6 -- Very good in providing layoffs and combining with his teammates in the final third as well as creating spaces and helping Sandro in defence.
FW Federico Bernardeschi, 6 -- Absorbed the instructions perfectly, providing exactly what was required of him.
DF Andrea Barzagli, NR -- Provided experience to close out the game.
MF Rodrigo Bentancur, NR -- Came on and immediately lent a helping hand in defence, showing tenacity and determination, but his inexperience was quickly exposed thereafter when he conceded a free kick in the dying minutes.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.