Ciro Immobile powers Juve to glory in Viareggio
For the fifth time in eight years, Juventus have been crowned carnival kings. A scintillating display from the Bianconeri in Monday’s final proved a fitting climax to a wonderful two weeks of football in this beautiful Italian city.
But how different it could have been on Saturday afternoon when in their semi-final against Atalanta, La Vecchia Signora were on the back foot for much of the opening exchanges.
The Nerazzurri took control of the contest right from the first whistle with their star striker Manolo Gabbiadini guilty of missing four one-on-one chances against Juventus goalkeeper Carlo Pinsoglio in the opening 45 minutes.
Such profligacy in front of goal would eventually cost the Bergamo club a final berth. On the stroke of half time, the match swung in Juve’s favour when a terrible mix up in the Atalanta rearguard allowed Yago Silva to nip in and put the Bianconeri in front – on such mistakes dreams are shattered.
Just 13 minutes after the interval, the outstanding Ciro Immobile was brought down in the penalty area by Alessandro De Leidi, the referee had no option but to show the red card. Immobile converted the spot kick to notch up his sixth goal of the tournament and Atalanta hearts had been broken as Luciano Bruni’s men headed into the final.
In the day’s second semi-final in Pistoia, the tournament’s surprise team, a representative team from the amateur ranks of Serie D, took on Empoli. Having already seen off the challenge of Genoa and Torino, the Tuscan’s held no fear for the amateurs who dug deep to repel anything that Empoli could throw at them.
It was clear that the Serie D side would be happy to fight it out to penalties just like in their quarter-final against Torino. The amateurs got their wish with Empoli seemingly lost for ideas on how to break down the stubborn resistance shown by a side that had only trained together for the first time just a couple of weeks before the start of the competition.
Unfortunately, this time there was no fairytale ending as the enormity of their achievements seemed to affect the youngsters from Italy’s fifth tier. Empoli eased into the final with a 4-2 shoot-out win to set up an eagerly awaited final clash with Juventus.
Monday’s final in front of 5000 people at the Stadio Bresciani in Viareggio belonged to one man, Ciro Immobile. The tournaments outstanding player was in scintillating form ably supported by the midfield genius of Simone Esposito.
After Empoli’s Roberto Guitto has rattled the Bianconeri woodwork on 13 minutes, Immobile and Co took control of the game. On 19 minutes Immobile converted a spot kick to put his side ahead, seven minutes after the break he collected his second goal of the game and after the match was effectively sealed by Yago just six minutes later, Immobile capped off a wonderful tournament by completing his second hat-trick.
To their immense credit, Empoli hit back with two quick strikes as the Bianconeri switched off but as referee Tagliavento blew for full time, the joy on the faces of the young Juventus players told its own story. The club had retained its carnival crown, Immobile won the “Golden Boy” award for the tournaments most outstanding player and as the curtain came down on two weeks of wonderful competition, Viareggio had once again provided a signpost to the future.