Del Piero dampens Shamrock Rovers spirit in Modena
Alessandro Del Piero’s speculative free-kick helped Juventus to a uncomfortable 1-0 victory against Shamrock Rovers on a wet night in Modena.
The result sees the Italian side progress into the Europa League play-off round with a 3-0 aggregate win.
The Irish side battled hard and despite the vastly superior resources available to La Vecchia Donna, the creative talents of Diego and Amauri were unable to negotiate a passage past the Rovers defence.
The match appeared to be in doubt after torrential rain left the pitch waterlogged, but it the surface was declared playable just before kick-off.
The state of the pitch inevitably led to a scrappy and unpredictable match.
Juventus were restricted to long-range efforts in the first half and failed to trouble Shamrock Rovers goalkeeper, Alan Mannus.
The conditions unsurprisingly led to the occasional hairy moment: when Mannus dropped a Juve cross the ball threatened to trickle into the empty net but last-ditch defending prevented the goal.
The greasy surface allowed Davide Lanzafame a sight on goal when the bounce of the ball deceived Irish defender Pat Flynn. However Lanzafame struggled to maintain his balance and hampered by the slippery surface dragged his shot wide of the goal.
Arguably the best chance of the opening period fell to Rovers. Flynn looped a free kick into the Juventus box with the flight of the ball tricking Giorgio Chiellini and allowing Stephen Bradley to nod the ball back across goal. In slid Gary Twigg and Billy Dennehy but neither could achieve the required contact.
The second half appearance of Del Piero satisfied the football purists and the 1,000-strong Shamrock Rovers supporters who remained in good voice despite the drenching by the Italian weather.
The veteran forward set the game alight, his presence lifting his team-mates.
With 17 minutes remaining Juventus were awared a free-kick 35-yards from goal. The masterful Del Piero precisely fired his attempt into the top-right corner past the helpless Mannus.
It was a moment of brilliance by the revered 35-year-old and it sealed Juventus’ safe passage through to the next round.
Shamrock Rovers face title rivals Bohemians in their local derby this weekend.