Giroud heads UCL football out of Juventus’ grasp

Coming into the match off the back of a revised 10-point deduction for irregularities within the Old Lady’s historical financial accounts, Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri named a new-look attacking front-three. It follows another hammer blow to their European qualification ambitions courtesy of a surprising 4-1 defeat at Empoli on Monday, as Federico Chiesa, Ángel Di María and Moise Kean all returned to the hosts’ XI.

Meanwhile, following a comprehensive 5-1 mauling of Serie B-bound Sampdoria, in a game which featured Olivier Giroud’s tenth career hat-trick, AC boss Stefano Pioli unsurprisingly named an unchanged starting line-up for the trip to the Allianz Stadium.

JUV: Szczęsny; Danilo, Gatti, Bremer; Cuadrado, Locatelli, Rabiot, Kostić; Kean, Chiesa, Di María

MIL: Maignan; Calabria, Thiaw, Tomori, Hernández; Krunić, Tonali; Messias, Díaz, Leão, Giroud

Knowing only a victory would be enough to keep their aspirations of a 12th consecutive appearance in the UEFA Champions League alive, Juventus saw the first sight of the game’s opening goal shortly before the quarter-hour mark as visiting goalkeeper Mike Maignan confidently palmed Juan Cuadrado’s low drive away from any impending danger. 

With the match approaching the half-hour mark, one-way traffic continued to flow the way of the AC goal, to the delight of the majority inside of the ground – as Ángel Di María and then strike-partner Federico Chiesa fired opportunities to break the deadlock wide of Maignan’s goal. Unbeaten in their last three expeditions to the Allianz Stadium, AC took one step closer to extending their recent away head-to-head bragging rights five minutes before the half-time interval, as against the run of play, Olivier Giroud majestically rose off the turf to head Davide Calabria’s pin-point delivery into the box past Wojciech Szczęsny for his 12th league goal of the season.

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Needing a more lethal touch in front of goal in the second half to stand any chance of salvaging anything from the contest, Juventus again tested Maignan in the opening stages as Adrien Rabiot’s ambitious long-range effort was well-saved by the French international goalkeeper. Clearly now unimpressed with his side’s profligacy, Massimiliano Allegri called upon the services of Leandro Paredes, Arkadiusz Milik and 19-year-old Samuel Iling Junior from the dugout in an attempt to find a much-needed breakthrough in the final twenty minutes. However, that opportunity never frustratingly materialised for Juventus, as Rabiot headed the hosts’ last goalscoring chance of the match wide with time running out.

The victory secures AC Milan’s place in the top-four, but it’s almost certainly game over for Juventus. They will now need to emerge victorious at Udinese, and hope AS Roma fail to beat relegation-threatened Spezia and/or Atalanta do not beat Monza on the final day of the season to have any chance of participating on the footballing shores of Europe next season.