Rome, May 10: Moroccan centre-back Medhi Benatia scored two second-half goals as Juventus pounded AC Milan 4-0 here to hoist the Coppa Italia for the fourth consecutive year and the record-extending 13th time in all.
After a goalless first half, Benatia opened the scoring with a header in the 56th minute on Wednesday. The goal was followed by two mistakes within eight minutes from Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.
The 19-year-old was the culprit of allowing a drive from Douglas Costa to go through before failing to grab an easy header from Mario Manzukic — from which Benatia tucked in to get his second goal.
Later in the 76th minute, Nikola Kalinic headed a Juventus corner into his own net as the defending champions ran away with the title.
After the big win on Wednesday, the Turin football giants are also on the verge of clinching their seventh successive Serie A title, needing only one point from their final two matches to be assured of besting second-place Napoli.
Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri, bidding to win his fourth consecutive double of the league and Cup titles, surprised many by leaving striker Gonzalo Higuain out of the starting line-up in favour of Mario Mandzukic, flanked by Douglas Costa and Paulo Dybala.
Milan’s coach Gennaro Gattuso, meanwhile, stuck with his usual attacking trio of Hakan Calhanoglu, Suso Fernandez Saez and Patrick Cutrone, who leads the team in scoring with 16 goals.
Each of the five previous one-match title showdowns between AC Milan and Juventus were decided in extra time or on penalties and Wednesday’s relatively uneventful first half in front of 65,000 people at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico pointed toward a similar outcome.
Instead, Juventus upped the intensity after the restart, taking a 1-0 lead in the 55th minute as Benatia headed-in Miralem Pjanic’s corner.
Disheartened, Milan went on to concede two more goals in the space of minutes just after the hour mark. Donnarumma reacted too late to stop Brazilian winger Costa’s shot from the edge of the box in the 61st. Two minutes later, Benatia got his second of the night to make it 3-0 for Juventus.
Kalinic, who came on as a sub for Cutrone, only made things worse for Milan with an own goal from Pjanic’s corner kick from the left and was headed in by the Croatian who was standing at the near post.
The fourth goal killed off the game as Juventus pocketed their first title of the season, with Allegri’s side on the verge of sealing yet another league title in the next few days.
“We’ve written another chapter in Juventus’ history and now is the time to celebrate,” Allegri was quoted as saying by Juventus’ website.
“The lads put in an extraordinary performance and deserved the victory. They showed technical quality and mental strength in the game, gifting another night to remember to the fans.
“Winning our fourth Coppa Italia in a row wasn’t easy after a difficult and sapping season. Now we have to wrap up the league title.”
“The full-time score does not tell the whole story because if you think about the first half we created a clear-cut opportunity through Cutrone, whereas they didn’t have many chances. We played a good match but mistakes punished us and as I said, it’s part of the game,” the former AC Milan midfielder was quoted as saying by the club’s website. IANS