Old Lady de­fines dogged de­fence

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

MI­LAN: There is some­thing de­light­fully old-fash­ioned about the de­fence which has pro­vided the foun­da­tion for Ju­ven­tus to ad­vance to the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal in Cardiff.

Al­though not es­sen­tially a de­fen­sive team, there are times when coach Mas­si­m­il­iano Al­le­gri de­cides Juve have to bat­ten down the hatches – and when that hap­pens, no­body does it quite like the Serie A cham­pi­ons.

The Old Lady have con­ceded just three goals in 12 games on their way to Satur­day’s fi­nal against Real Madrid.

That record has been bet­tered only twice, by Ar­se­nal and Ajax who con­ceded just two each on their way to reach­ing the 2006 and 1996 fi­nals, re­spec­tively.

Crit­ics have com­plained that mod­ern foot­ball places too much em­pha­sis on the abil­ity of de­fend­ers to play the ball out, rather than their tack­ling.

But that crit­i­cism can­not be lev­elled at Ju­ven­tus cen­tral de­fend­ers Gior­gio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, whose game is based on strength, po­si­tion­ing, tele­pathic un­der­stand­ing and a ruth­less streak. Once de­scribed as a “swine” on the pitch by for­mer team­mate Al­bin Ek­dal, Chiellini has reached the peak of his game at the age of 33.

An in­sight into his com­pet­i­tive na­ture was un­wit­tingly of­fered by Fifa when they tested video tech­nol­ogy dur­ing a match be­tween Italy and France last year.

Ref­eree Bjorn Kuipers, de­scrib­ing an in­ci­dent re­viewed by the tech­nol­ogy, said that Chiellini came rush­ing over to de­mand a red card for an op­po­nent – just four min­utes into a friendly.

Juve’s de­fence was at its finest in the quar­ter-fi­nal against Barcelona when they kept clean sheets in both legs of a 3-0 ag­gre­gate win.

In each game, they were given valu­able help by for­wards Juan Cuadrado and Mario Mandzu­kic, who tracked back tire­lessly.

“We have crazy work rate on the flanks, both of­fen­sive and de­fen­sively, and mid­field­ers who guar­an­tee the bal­ance of our team,” Chiellini told France Foot­ball. “If we don’t con­cede many goals, it’s a col­lec­tive suc­cess.”

Al­le­gri has re­peat­edly stressed the im­por­tance of find­ing the right bal­ance. “There’s no shame in be­ing good at de­fend­ing. In fact, it’s just as beau­ti­ful as a great at­tack­ing move,” he said.

“I am very happy for those who can turn foot­ball into a show but, as far as I’m con­cerned, if you want to see a show, you should go to the cir­cus.” – Reuters

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