Juventus have qualified for the Champions League on the final day of the Serie A season thanks to beating Bologna 4-1 and rivals Napoli only managing a draw at home to Hellas Verona.
Andrea Pirlo’s men went into the weekend in danger of missing out on the Champions League for the first time since finishing seventh in 2010-11, but Verona did them a favour as they held on to a 1-1 draw in Naples, meaning Juve take fourth a point ahead of Napoli.
Juve certainly held up their end of the bargain, dismantling Bologna with consummate ease despite the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, with Adrien Rabiot and Federico Chiesa adding to Alvaro Morata’s brace to have them 4-0 up by the 47th minute.
Riccardo Orsolini’s late consolation had little bearing – the Bianconeri just had to see what happened elsewhere with Milan also in the hunt with Juve and Napoli, the latter of whom eventually became the team to miss out on the top four.
Juve looked like a team on a mission and were in front within six minutes as Chiesa converted somewhat scrappily after Dejan Kulusevski had caused havoc down the right flank.
It took them a little while to double their advantage but the second goal did arrive with half an hour played, Paulo Dybala doing brilliantly as he left the Bologna defence in knots before a chipped cross found Morata to nod home.
Rabiot then made it 3-0 on the stroke of half-time, the Frenchman slotting past Lukasz Skorupski from Kulusevski’s lay-off at the end of a lovely flowing move.
Juve quickly picked up where they left off in the second period, Morata producing an exquisite first touch on the spin to bring Wojciech Szczesny’s long ball under his spell, then holding off a defender before squeezing a powerful shot under the hands of Skorupski.
Morata nearly got his hat-trick just before the hour when hitting into the side-netting from a Juan Cuadrado cross, though former Juve talent Orsolini did score at the other end with a well-taken finish late on.
Not that it had any major impact on Juve, who never looked like dropping points and that did the job as they ensured they will be at Europe’s top table next term.
What does it mean? Juve avoid humiliation
It would have been nothing short of an embarrassment if Juve had missed out on the top four, and that looked the most likely outcome ahead of Sunday.
Napoli were big favourites against mid-table Verona but failed to get the job done – Juve just needed to remain professional in the event an opportunity arose.
It did, Verona doing them a massive favour, making sure the Old Lady get into the Champions League. Nevertheless, this does not paper over the cracks after what has been an unmitigated failure of a season, finishing 13 points behind champions Inter.
Morata shines in Ronaldo’s absence
With Ronaldo missing out apparently due to a bold decision by Pirlo, it is fair to say Morata led the line impressively. His two goals were the Spaniard’s main contribution of course, his play in the build-up to the second of those an absolute joy to behold, but in general he was excellent.
Only Dybala (seven) had more shots than his five and his 14 duels was a high for Juve, showing that he put himself about even if he only actually came out on top in seven of those.
Palacio shows class is permanent as Barrow struggles
Rodrigo Palacio may be 39, but he showed here that he can still mix it with the best of them. The Argentinian forward was excellent, laying on a remarkable eight key passes. Only Hakan Calhanoglu’s 12 against Verona in November saw more chances created in a single Serie A match this term.
But at the other end of the scale, it was a day to forget for Musa Barrow, who only managed to get one of his five shots on target.
Key Opta Stats:
– Only Marcus Rashford is younger than Federico Chiesa among players that have scored at least nine goals and provided at least nine assists this season in the top-five European leagues.
– Szczesny is the first Juventus goalkeeper to provide an assist in a match in Serie A since Opta collected this data (from 2004-05).
– Juventus have won each of their last 10 Serie A games against Bologna – their best streak against the teams currently in the competition.
– Palacio is the oldest player with five goals and five assists in this season in the top-five European leagues.
– Since Cristiano Ronaldo started playing in the top-five European leagues (from 2003-04) his club has always qualified for the following Champions League campaign.
With the season over, Juve’s attention will now turn to key off-pitch decisions in the close season, with Pirlo’s future in doubt. Bologna meanwhile will be looking to build on what has been an encouraging season, finishing 12th in Serie A.
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