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Juventus tightened their grip on the Serie A title with a 1-0 victory over an uninspiring AC Milan at the Juventus stadium.

A second half penalty converted by Arturo Vidal proved not only to be enough for Juventus but also the only highlight in an uneventful encounter. A match that had promised so much offered so little. After all the controversy that surrounded last year’s meeting between the two sides and with Milan’s fight for Champions League football, the match was expected to be an intense battle. Instead Milan dominated possession with 58% of the ball but offered no threat in attack and lacked urgency. Contributing to the lack of excitement was Juventus almost uninterested attitude. Where did it all go wrong for the Rossoneri with three points seemingly there for the taking?

Massimo Ambrosini returned from injury as Matieu Flamini and Mario Balotelli missed out through suspensions for the Rossoneri. Stephan El Shaarawy was restored to the starting line-up, Robinho retained his place and Kevin-Prince Boateng was moved to into the mezz’ala role. Juventus welcomed back Giorgio Chiellini and continued with a 3-5-1-1 formation in order to accommodate Paul Pogba in the line-up.

The match began at a slow pace. The entire first half can be summarised by both teams unwillingness to take risks as they preferred to play it safe. Unfortunately for Milan Christian Abbiati hurt himself in having to change directions and save a deflected Andrea Pirlo free-kick early on. The Milan stopper limped off minutes later. The only other goal scoring opportunity of the half saw another Pirlo free-kick clear the wall but fall straight into substitute Marco Amelia’s hands. Milan set themselves up defensively well in the first period. They defended from the front and implemented a high pressing game which unnerved the Bianconeri. Milan who themselves benefited from Pirlo’s build-up play for many years understood the need to quickly close down the Italian international. The Rossoneri did this and were also able to break up the Old Lady’s stage-by-stage, intricate build-up play. The Rossoneri effectively won back possession and then controlled possession but were unable to add the attacking penetration.

An injured Ambrosini made way at half-time for Sulley Muntari. Ricardo Montolivo took over the captaincy and was also restored to his preferred regista position. However despite Montolivo’s continuous involvement and recycling off the ball, Milan lacked an attacking dimension to their play in much the same vein as the first half. Giampaolo Pazzini and Robinho offered little or no movement off the ball and El Shaarawy worked hard but was unable to break through the resolute Juventus defence.

Ten minutes into the second half, Ignazio Abate inexcusably allowed a ball to pass over his head which Kwando Asamoah latched onto. Amelia rushed off his line but clattered into the Ghanaian and conceded a clear penalty. Vidal stepped up and placed his spot-kick perfectly in the top corner. Further opportunities in the second half saw Pogba head over from a corner and Philippe Mexes crucially charge down a Mirko Vucinic effort. Milan came closest from a low Boateng cross into a dangerous area which was intercepted by Leonardo Bonucci and a long range shot from Montolivo straight at Gianlugi Buffon.

With Fiorentina’s victory earlier in the day, Milan’s lacklustre performance will be a major concern for the Milan tifosi. La Viola are now only one point off Milan and Napoli are a commanding seven points ahead in second place. Despite all the possession Milan barely troubled the Biaconeri’s defence and goalkeeper. The Rossoneri were unimaginative and quite frankly never looked like scoring. Milan will now require vastly improved performances in their last hand-full of fixtures in order to retain the final Champions League qualification spot.

Despite the Old Lady’s lack of desire to chase the game they simply never looked like losing. Juventus march on and now require only four points from their last five fixtures to clinch the Championship.

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