The former Bianconero was the unlikely hero for the Old Lady, as his late winner at San Siro edged his one-time employers' noses in front in the title raceCOMMENT
By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Editor
Claimed by many to be one of the worst signings in Juventus’ recent history, derided for his poor finishing, stripped of his squad number, and forced to train with the club’s youth players, Amauri would have every reason to take great pleasure in seeing the Bianconeri fail in their bid to win the Serie A title this season.
Yet on Saturday, he scored perhaps his most valuable ever goal in their favour by netting Fiorentina’s winner against AC Milan at San Siro which helped send Juve top of the league with just seven games remaining.
The Italo-Brazilian exchanged passes with star of the show Stevan Jovetic before slotting neatly under Christian Abbiati in the 89th minute of a lethargic Milan performance on their return to league play following Tuesday night’s Champions League exit to Barcelona.
It was a deserved goal for the visitors, who had looked dangerous on several occasions in the second half, while the Rossoneri failed to test Artur Boruc often enough to cause any great worry for Delio Rossi’s outfit. The champions’ only goal came from a very debatable penalty in the first half, and they rarely looked convincing after Jovetic had equalised early in the second period.
|MATCH FACTS | Milan 1-2 Fiorentina
For the past five months, most people involved with the Rossoneri and with Italian football have been counting down the days until the return of Antonio Cassano after heart surgery, but no sooner had the former Sampdoria man made an 84th minute return than Milan were being kicked in the guts again. Cassano's health is more important than a title, but many Milanisti will have forgotten that in the moments after Amauri's winner.
It was a poetic finish in many ways. They didn’t need reminding just what a defeat meant in terms of the title race, but the sight of Amauri celebrating his first goal for Fiorentina – his first since being freed of the Juve shackles – ensured that the Bianconeri theme ran right through their day.
However, it was only due to their own deficiencies that Milan lost. Zlatan Ibrahimovic showed occasional flashes of genius but wasn’t at his best, while Urby Emanuelson, Antonio Nocerino and Sulley Muntari were well off form. The awful showing was crowned by two major defensive errors which led to Fiorentina’s goals, with Ignazio Abate dropping five yards behind the rest of the back line to keep Jovetic onside for the equaliser, and Philippe Mexes failing to deal with a routine ball over the top as Amauri ghosted in behind him to win it.
Antonio Conte’s side had still to play their fixture, participating in the early-evening fixture against Palermo, but from the moment the game got underway in Sicily it was clear the Bianconeri would collect the three points they needed to go top.
They simply dominated proceedings against a bruised and bloodied Palermo side missing much of their first team. That said, Juventus played with such a swagger across the park that they may well have bossed the clash even if the Rosanero had every player on their roster to choose from.
|MATCH FACTS | Palermo 0-2 Juventus
Only poor finishing from Fabio Quagliarella and Mirko Vucinic stopped Juve from taking a huge lead into the break, with Martin Caceres also chucking in a candidate for miss of the season. After the interval, as has happened so often already this term, it was a defender who bailed out his misfiring team-mates, with Leonardo Bonucci heading home from Andrea Pirlo’s corner.
Before long a second was added; substitute Alessandro Matri holding off his marker to play a neat flicked pass for Quagliarella to finally hit the target and seal the win. A two-goal margin was the very least they deserved.
With a 31st unbeaten game this season, Juve have now passed the 30-match run of Perugia in 1978-79 which saw the Umbrian side go a whole campaign without defeat. They sit level with Inter’s 31-game stretch in 2006-07, and are just three behind the invincible Milan of 1991-92.
Week after week, they are creating records, but only one target is in their sights, and that is the Scudetto. Another potential hurdle has been overcome, and they have now won four straight games for the second time this season. They are hitting form just as Milan are suffering. Momentum is one of the greatest weapons any football team can possess, and right now Juve have it in abundance.
They have the momentum, they have the belief, they even have Amauri coming through for them. Suddenly, it’s Juventus’ title to lose with just 630 minutes of the season remaining.ELSEWHERE...
- Inter twice conjured up quickfire equalisers to earn a draw against Cagliari in Trieste and preserve Andrea Stramaccioni's unbeaten start as coach. Diego Milito and Esteban Cambiasso struck to keep them in with an outside chance of making the top three, but the two dropped points mean they will be left to rely still further on other sides slipping up between now and May 13.
- Roma went down to an embarrassing 4-2 defeat at struggling Lecce, and even trailed 4-0 at one point with Luis Muriel and David Di Michele grabbing a double each. There has been much speculation regarding the future of coach Luis Enrique of late, and the reverse at the Via del Mare is just the latest result to undermine the Giallorossi's push for Champions League football. It is becoming increasingly likely that club owner Thomas DiBenedetto will consider a review of staff should his side not make third place.
- In the big Champions League face-off, Napoli's horrible run of form continued as Lazio took the spoils at the Stadio Olimpico. Stefano Mauri's sensational overhead kick sent the Biancocelesti back in front after Goran Pandev's equaliser, and the Azzurri would never recover. Despite the Romans arguably lacking the quality that Walter Mazzarri's side can boast, Mauri's moment of magic was a goal worthy of winning any game, and puts one of their major rivals for third place out of the picture by a cool six points. A killer blow never looked so beautiful!