Milik spares Juventus blushes to halt Lazio comeback as Bianconeri reach Coppa Italia final

Juventus are into the Coppa Italia final with Arek Milik's late goal killing any chance of a Lazio comeback at the Stadio Olimpico.

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STADIO OLIMPICO (Rome): For Juventus, this was a case of job done, but certainly not a case of crisis over.

Lazio were 2-1 winners on the night thanks to a brace from unlikely hero Taty Castellanos, but Arkadiusz Milik’s late tap-in ensured Juve avoided an embarrassing collapse and progressed to the Coppa Italia final with a 3-2 aggregate victory.

Massimiliano Allegri has been hounded by critics since the turn of the year after some awful results and pitiful performances led to a slide down the league standings. While Juve’s victory over two legs was hard-earned, their second-leg display will do little to silence the doubters as the Bianconeri’s winless run stretched to three games.

Juventus remain on track as both sides make changes

Allegri and director Cristiano Giuntoli said in the lead-up to the game that a Coppa Italia victory and Champions League qualification are the club’s objectives for the season, and they remain on course for both, with Fiorentina or Atalanta awaiting in the cup final.

Igor Tudor said Lazio would need the “perfect game” to overturn the first-leg deficit and achieving that lofty ambition was looking good after the much-maligned Castellanos scored early in both halves to level the tie.

But the Biancoceslesti couldn’t find the knockout blow and were punished with seven minutes remaining, leaving them with nothing but a hopeful chase for European qualification left for the season.  

The returns of Alessio Romagnoli and Matteo Guendouzi gave Lazio a boost, but a late knock ruled out Daichi Kamada, who joined Mattia Zaccagni, Ivan Provedel and Manuel Lazzari on the hosts’ injury list.

Mattia Perin was again trusted with the gloves in the Coppa Italia for Juventus, while Alex Sandro stepped in for suspended Federico Gatti and Filip Kostic and Weston McKennie earned recalls after missing Friday’s 2-2 draw at Cagliari.

Lazio start strongly in Rome

Lazio Juventus Coppa Italia
Lazio’s Taty Castellanos heads in against Juventus. [@OfficialSSLazio]

An authoritative start from Lazio was followed by a warning when Andrea Cambiaso squeezed a shot wide through a busy box, but the hosts responded quickly and clinically.

Luis Alberto’s deep, dipping corner to the back post was met by a leaping Castellanos, who rose above Alex Sandro to nod into the top corner from six yards. It was only his fifth goal since joining Lazio last summer, and just his second against a club other than Frosinone.

Tudor and his men couldn’t have hoped for a much better start as they were left with 78 minutes plus stoppage time to find a tie-equalling goal.

But that proved to be as good as it got for the Aquile in the first half, and they had Christos Mandas to thank for keeping them in front when the young Greek goalkeeper stuck out a left boot to deny Dusan Vlahovic from close range.

On the brink of half-time, Castellanos gave the home fans reason to tear their hair out again just after getting them back on side with a rare goal.

A Luis Alberto through ball sent the striker one-on-one with Perin, but his finish was charged down by the outrushing keeper to groans from the Olimpico stands at a big opportunity spurned.

However, another twist in the tale came not long after the restart Alberto’s first-time through ball slipped Castellanos in and this time he finished superbly, holding off his marker and firing a shot low into the bottom corner.

The Argentinian’s teammates streamed off the bench to celebrate with him as the tie was levelled, but Lazio were soon hanging on as Adam Marusic made a crucial goal-line interception and Vlahovic dragged a dangerous shot wide.

Lazio Castellanos
Lazio’s Taty Castellanos celebrates. [@OfficialSSLazio]

Milik sends Juventus to the final

Castellanos then appeared to squander a glorious chance to seal his hat-trick when he was sent clean through on goal but dinked a tame finish into Perin, but to the striker’s relief the offside flag was up. Even so, Tudor had his head in his hands in disbelief.

The atmosphere got edgier as the clock ticked towards a result that would bring extra time, but a raft of substitutions proved to be crucial for Juve’s turnaround.

Replacement Timothy Weah was found in space on the right of the box and fired a cross-shot across the face of goal, and Milik was lurking at the back post to tap in with his first touch since coming on.

That left Lazio with six minutes to salvage the tie, but Juventus held tight to deny the Biancocelesti any late heroics.

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