JEDDAH: A historic Wednesday evening at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium saw Italian champions Juventus beat AC Milan in the final of the 31st annual Supercoppa Italiana.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winning goal as Juventus lifted the Supercoppa Italiana for the first time since 2015 with a 1-0 victory in front of a sold-out 61,235-capacity crowd.
As only one should expect when two of the most successful Italian clubs go head to head, a tactical and elegant, albeit very physical, display of football was at hand.
Cheerful roars from the Jeddah crowd resonated throughout the night, in the kind of buzzing atmosphere that only a cup final brings.
Juventus, the Serie A champions, began brightly and were the first side to settle into the game, threatening with frequent sweeping moves.
Juventus and Portuguese international Joao Cancelo could have opened the scoring in the 16th minute after being played through on goal, but the defender’s zooming effort lacked the necessary precision and whisked past the far post with the Milan keeper rooted in his spot.
A maddening crescendo of noise erupted when Juventus and French international Blaise Matuidi thought he had opened the scoring in the 33rd minute after being played through by Costa before being flagged offside.
Juventus did not have too much longer for another opportunity though, with Ronaldo’s acrobatic half volley from just outside the six-yard box bouncing and nestling agonizingly just over the bar and sparing Donnarumma’s blushes in the process.
Christiano Ronaldo has scored eight goals in his last seven finals. (Reuters)
Milan, who qualified for the final as runners-up to Juventus in last season’s Coppa Italia, had struggled throughout the first half to settle into the game. They gradually grew into their own though, and nearly broke the deadlock at the stroke of halftime with a stinging drive from Turkish international Hakan Calhanoglu.
After a slew of opportunities had Juventus failing to build a halftime lead, Milan nearly made them pay for their squandered chances by starting the second half like bats out of hell.
Milan’s confident pressing start to the half was almost rewarded in the 47th minute when a Ronaldo tackle inadvertently set up Cutrone with a clear sight on goal. The striker turned and blasted an effort that rattled off the crossbar — the closest either team had come thus far.
And just when the tide seemed to have turned for Milan in the second half, their confidence building with every minute, a perfectly floating cross from Pjanic found Ronaldo with yards of space, and he made no mistake directing a swift header into the back of the net in the 61st minute and sending Juve supporters into a frenzy.
AS IT HAPPENED: Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal gives Juventus Supercoppa Italiana victory over AC Milan in Jeddah >>
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Things went from bad to worse for Milan in the 73rd minute. Franck Kessie came rushing in with a recklessly timed tackle, crunching his studs into the shins of Emre Can, which resulted in him seeing a straight red and leaving Milan with 10 men and a subsequent insurmountable uphill battle.
The final whistle came soon after, and with it brought Juventus a record eighth Supercoppa. It goes without saying that there is nothing quite like the atmosphere of a cup final, but this was a historic and monumental occasion for Jeddah.
The first major European cup final match being held in Saudi Arabia is now in the books, and with it brought an added sense of passion and excitement.
Thousands of men, women and children showed up enthusiastically, were highly supportive of both teams, and were thoroughly entertained. It was a successful and memorable night that will surely pave the way for many more.
Addressing a prematch press conference on Tuesday night, Juventus Captain Giorgio Chiellini had defended the choice of Jeddah as the venue for the game against a backdrop of criticism by some. He said that it was “right” to give the Saudi port city the chance to host the showpiece match.
“We (footballers) cannot change the world but initiatives such as this can provide a new start.”
Juventus had been experiencing a worrying trend in cup finals of late. Despite securing the Serie A and Coppa Italia double for three seasons running, they had lost back-to-back Supercoppas and seven out of nine European Cup finals.
Chiellini, however, firmly believed that his team would change the trend and the team did make their captain proud.
Saturday’s gossip column
Manchester United have agreed terms with Porto full-back Alex Telles and the 27-year-old Brazil international could now sign a five-year deal. (RMC Sport – via Mirror)external-linkSections of the Real Madrid dressing room are said to be relieved that Wales forward Gareth Bale has made a loan move to Tottenham. (AS – in Spanish)external-linkRennes want Chelsea…
Manchester United have agreed terms with Porto full-back Alex Telles and the 27-year-old Brazil international could now sign a five-year deal. (RMC Sport – via Mirror)external-linkSections of the Real Madrid dressing room are said to be relieved that Wales forward Gareth Bale has made a loan move to Tottenham. (AS – in Spanish)external-linkRennes want Chelsea to include two players in any deal for Senegal international goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, 28. England defender Fikayo Tomori, 22, is one of those the French club want. (Football Insider)external-linkLiverpool have asked about a possible loan deal for France and Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele, 23. (Sport)external-linkSheffield United manager Chris Wilder says the club have held talks with Liverpool over a loan move for English striker Rhian Brewster, 20. (Yorkshire Live)external-linkBut Crystal Palace also want to sign Brewster from the champions on a permanent deal. (90Min)external-linkManchester City are considering a deal for Sevilla’s French centre-back Jules Kounde, 21. The move could see Argentina international Nicolas Otamendi, 32, move in the opposite direction. (Telegraph)external-linkCrystal Palace’s potential sale of 24-year-old Norway international striker Alexander Sorloth to RB Leipzig will fund a move for Brentford’s Algeria international forward Said Benrahma, 25. (Guardian)external-linkAny move away from Southampton for striker Danny Ings, 28, is “100% not discussable” according to manager Ralph Hasenhuttl. (Daily Echo)external-linkLeeds are still keen on signing Argentina international midfielder Rodrigo de Paul, 26, from Udinese. (Fabrizio Romano)external-linkAmerican defender DeAndre Yedlin, 27, looks set to leave Newcastle for Besiktas. (NBC)external-linkArsenal, Leeds and Wolves are all keen on 18-year-old Reading midfielder Michael Olise. (Football League World)external-linkAston Villa remain poised to sign 25-year-old Burkina Faso winger Bertrand Traore from Lyon. (Sky Sports)external-linkGossip: Could Odsonne Edouard join Jack Grealish at Aston Villa?Newcastle are close to signing Peru playmaker Rodrigo Vilca, 21, from Deportivo Municipal. (Mail)external-linkBurnley manager Sean Dyche has described the club’s way of working in the transfer market as “last minute” and “tricky”. (Mail)external-linkFormer Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino says it’s “a dream” of his to coach Real Madrid. (Cadena Cope Radio – via ESPN)external-linkLeicester manager Brendan Rodgers says winger Demarai Gray has a decision to make over his future and that the 24-year-old will ultimately decide when he leaves the club. (Leicester Mercury)external-linkLyon could offer 26-year-old Dutch forward Memphis Depay to AC Milan in a swap deal which would see the French club sign 23-year-old Brazilian midfielder Lucas Paqueta. (Di Marzio – in Italian)external-link The Guardian and most other papers lead on Gareth Bale’s return to Tottenham Extinction: The Facts: Sir David Attenborough on biodiversity crisisBattlestar Galactica: Binge all episodes of sci-fi classic
Friday’s gossip column
Liverpool have enquired about Ismaila Sarr and discussed his situation with Watford, who want £36m for the 22-year-old Senegal striker. (Mail) external-linkSarr has been identified by Manchester United as an alternative option if their move for Borussia Dortmund and England winger Jadon Sancho fails. (Independent)external-linkManchester United are considering moves for Inter Milan’s Croatia winger Ivan…
Liverpool have enquired about Ismaila Sarr and discussed his situation with Watford, who want £36m for the 22-year-old Senegal striker. (Mail) external-linkSarr has been identified by Manchester United as an alternative option if their move for Borussia Dortmund and England winger Jadon Sancho fails. (Independent)external-linkManchester United are considering moves for Inter Milan’s Croatia winger Ivan Perisic, 31, Bayern Munich’s France winger Kingsley Coman, 24, and 30-year-old Brazil winger Douglas Costa from Juventus. (ESPN)external-linkManchester United are also targeting Germany midfielder Sami Khedira, 33, when his contract expires at Juventus. (Sun)external-linkA deal has been agreed for 28-year-old Rennes and Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to join Chelsea, says his agent. (Stades via Star)external-linkGossip: Could Odsonne Edouard join Jack Grealish at Aston Villa?Chelsea are set to bid for West Ham’s England midfielder Declan Rice, 21, as the final act of their summer spending. (Simon Phillips via Express) external-linkA Manchester United bid for Porto’s 27-year-old Brazilian defender Alex Telles is imminent, according to his agent. (Star)external-linkBrentford have rejected a bid of about £10m from Arsenal for 25-year-old Spanish goalkeeper David Raya. (Telegraph)external-linkSouthampton have told Tottenham that striker Danny Ings, 28, is not for sale at any price. (Mail)external-linkLeicester City are closing in on the loan signing of 23-year-old Turkey striker Cengiz Under from Roma, while Burnley’s England defender James Tarkowski, 27, is still a target for Foxes manager Brendan Rodgers. (Sky Sports)external-linkWest Ham have changed the structure of their latest bid for Tarkowski but the offer has still been declined by Burnley. (Sky Sports)external-linkWest Brom are trying to sign Aston Villa’s 27-year-old Tanzania striker Mbwana Samatta before he completes a move to Fenerbahce. (Sun)external-linkEnglish former Liverpool defender and free agent Nathaniel Clyne, 29, is training with Crystal Palace and could earn a contract. (Standard)external-linkEdin Dzeko is set to join Juventus from Roma on a two-year deal. The 34-year-old Bosnia and Herzegovina striker’s move will mean Luis Suarez’s hopes of a move from Barcelona to the Serie A champions will likely end. (Goal)external-linkArsenal have agreed personal terms with Lyon’s 22-year-old French midfielder Houssem Aouar. (Star)external-linkTottenham and England midfielder Dele Alli, 24, has emerged as a target for Paris St-Germain and Inter Milan. (Mail)external-linkSerbia striker Luka Jovic, 22, is keen to leave Real Madrid. (Marca)external-linkGenoa have reached an agreement with Chelsea to sign 28-year-old right-back Davide Zappacosta on loan. (DiMarzio – Twitter)external-linkJuventus have confirmed Gonzalo Higuain’s departure. The 32-year-old Argentina striker is expected to sign for MLS club Inter Miami. (Goal)external-link Gareth Bale’s move to Tottenham features on several back pages Extinction: The Facts: Sir David Attenborough on biodiversity crisisBattlestar Galactica: Binge all episodes of sci-fi classic
Barca president set to face referendum
Lionel Messi (right) has had a public falling out with Bartomeu (left)Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is set to face a vote of no-confidence after a campaign seeking his removal gained the necessary backing.A motion to remove Bartomeu was filed the day after Messi’s transfer request.A total of 20,731 signatures have now backed the motion,…
Lionel Messi (right) has had a public falling out with Bartomeu (left)Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is set to face a vote of no-confidence after a campaign seeking his removal gained the necessary backing.A motion to remove Bartomeu was filed the day after Messi’s transfer request.A total of 20,731 signatures have now backed the motion, meaning Bartomeu should face a vote over his position.Some 16,500 signatures were needed and as long as that number is cleared when the signed documents are verified, 57-year-old Bartomeu will be the subject of a referendum within three months.The potential referendum will be undertaken by the club’s 150,000 members and if 66.5% of them vote against him his time at the club will come to a premature end.Bartomeu is due to step down in March, having served the maximum two terms as club president.But he looks set to become only the third president to face a vote of no-confidence after Josep Lluis Nunez in 1998 and Joan Laporta in 2008, though both survived the subsequent referendums.Messi has agreed to stay at the club but resentment against Bartomeu has been growing in the past year due to worsening finances and the team’s decline on the pitch, which saw them lift no major silverware last season.Meanwhile, former manager Quique Setien and three of his assistants also announced on Thursday that they are suing the club for failing to fulfil the terms of their contracts after being sacked last month.They claim they only received written notice of their contracts being terminated on 16 September, despite his sacking taking place on 17 August. Setien said he had not received any compensation and that a letter sent to him by the club on Wednesday “revealed the clear intention from the club to not comply with contracts we signed on 14 January 2020.”