Rome, May 22 (IANS) Alvaro Morata scored a extra-time winner in Juventus’ 1-0 victory over AC Milan in the Coppa Italia final as the Turin giants became the first football club to claim back-to-back domestic double titles here.
Within three minutes after being brought in by Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri on Saturday, Morata received a cross from Juan Cuadrado and lashed a half-volley into the bottom left-hand corner of Gianluigi Donnarumma’s goal in the 110th minute.
It was enough to secure a second successive double for Juventus who claimed their fifth straight Serie A title this season. It was Juventus’ 11th Coppa Italia title.
Defeat for Milan resigned them to an unthinkable third season in a row without European football, after they ended up finishing a disappointing seventh in the Serie A. Their loss gave maiden Europa League berth for Sassuolo.
In a pulsating opening period at the Stadio Olimpico, Milan had the better of the early chances, as Giacomo Bonaventura fired over the crossbar from range before prodding whiskers wide of Neto’s near post.
Mattia De Sciglio was next to try his luck for the Rossoneri, hitting over from outside the box, and after 24 minutes, the lively Bonaventura forced Neto into an extremely smart save after the Milan midfielder’s low shot took a wicked deflection towards the bottom corner.
The Bianconeri demonstrated that they too posed danger going forwards courtesy of a strong run down the right by Stephan Lichtsteiner, whose menacing cross was ultimately dealt with by Alessio Romagnoli.
But it was Milan who continued to threaten more in the final third, Andrea Poli taking Keisuke Honda’s pass into his stride before shooting wide of the mark from the edge of the area.
The Bianconeri knew they had to improve after the break and began the second period with renewed purpose as Mario Lemina’s pass from the centre almost located Mario Mandzukic, who would have had a simple tap-in were it not for Donnarumma’s timely interception.
Milan reasserted the attacking intent of the first half, as Honda flicked Davide Calabria’s cross just inches beyond the reach of an onrushing Carlos Bacca.
In the 69th minute, Juventus very nearly found the breakthrough, when Paul Pogba’s attempted cross spun off Calabria’s leg and was heading inside the near post before Donnarumma got down low to avert the danger.
Just four minutes later, Milan’s towering keeper had to palm away Lichtsteiner’s powerful header from Lemina’s cross, as Allegri’s men began to step up a gear or two into the final stretch of regulation time.
The introductions of Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado injected greater life into the Juventus’ legs, the latest sign of which culminated in a fierce long-range attempt from Pogba but it didn’t trouble Donnarumma.
A quiet ten minutes followed before Romagnoli nodded wide from a promising position, paving the way to extra-time.
Both sides cancelled themselves out after the second restart of the night until Pogba warmed Donnarumma’s gloves with a venomous right-footed drive in the 102nd minute.
Milan too would have a good chance of their own to open the scores only moments later when Sandro’s clearance fell to Bacca and the Colombian’s acrobatic kick ended up just the wrong side of the crossbar.
Shortly after extra-time’s midway stage, Allegri made the decision to bring on Morata and within just three minutes the change paid dividends with the Spaniard showing exceptional composure to turn home Cuadrado’s cross from the right.
Three minutes of added time spurred the Rossoneri on to encamp Juventus’ half as they eagerly pursued an equaliser.
But Juventus were in no mood to let history slip from their hands as they held firm until the final whistle, sparking scenes of jubilation from all in black and white half.