TURIN: A stoppage-time goal from Sergej Milinkovic-Savic earned Lazio a dramatic 2-2 draw at Juventus in Serie A on Monday, a point that sealed the Rome club’s spot in next season’s Europa League, overshadowing Giorgio Chiellini and Paulo Dybala’s farewell.
Already assured of a fourth-placed finish this term, Juventus could take the game to Lazio with the pressure off, racing into a 10th-minute lead after Dusan Vlahovic’s flying header found the net.
Veteran defender Chiellini was then taken off early, and given a standing ovation by fans in what will be his last home match for Juventus before he leaves the club after 18 years in Turin.
Spanish striker Alvaro Morata then doubled Juve’s lead in the 36th minute as they looked on course to give their supporters something to cheer after a disappointing season on the whole for Serie A’s most successful side.
Juve took their foot off the gas in the second half, however, with Alex Sandro’s own goal six minutes after the break giving Lazio hope of getting something from the match.
The visitors did not look like they had another goal in them, with Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri taking Dybala off to allow him his moment of applause before he too leaves the club.
But Milinkovic-Savic had the final say, with the last kick of the game, to ensure Lazio in fifth cannot be caught by Fiorentina in seventh, so a Europa League campaign awaits next term.
“Tonight was a wonderful evening, full of emotions,” Allegri told Sky Sport Italia. “The evening of Chiellini and Dybala. “A few videos of Chiellini should be sent to our training ground to show how he applies himself. On a personal and human level, he also helped me a lot when I arrived at Juventus. He introduced me to Juventus.
“Dybala was an important player for seven years, I raised him because he was a child and the fans gave him a well-deserved tribute. It would have been nice to finish with a win for them, but tonight’s game sums up our year — we need to get used to winning again.”
Juve fans chanted “there’s only one captain” as a giant choreography depicting his shirt number ‘3’ was displayed in the stands ahead of the match and they then gave Chiellini a huge round of applause after he was substituted in the 18th minute.
The 37-year-old had played the full 120 minutes of Juve’s Coppa Italia final defeat to arch-rivals Inter Milan on Wednesday, after which he announced that he would be leaving Juve, where he has won nine league titles and a clutch of other trophies.
“It’s been an emotional day,” said Chiellini to DAZN, adding that he believes he can “still play at a high level of football”.
Following the announcement of his departure from Juve he said he would think about whether to hang up his boots after having already decided to retire from international football.
“I don’t know right now,” he said. “I need to think about things. It’s a decision that can’t be made in a day.”
When he left the field he handed his captain’s armband to Dybala.
Argentina international Dybala, who has been at Juve since 2015, will leave at the end of the season after the club decided not to renew his contract after a verbal agreement with the 28-year-old struck in the autumn was publicly rejected by the club earlier this year.
Vlahovic did the Argentine’s “mask” celebration when he headed in the opener, and when Dybala was substituted with 12 minutes remaining, with the hosts leading 2-1, he did a tour of the stands and was embraced by fans while he tried to hold back the tears.
However, Maurizio Sarri’s Lazio pushed for a leveller which came in the 95th minute, Milinkovic-Savic rifling past Mattia Perin from a tight angle.
“For next year we will need a few players in order to aim towards the Champions league,” said Milinkovic-Savic, who has been linked with a move away from the Roman club in the summer.
They sit four points away from seventh-placed Fiorentina, who were hammered 4-1 at a Sampdoria side in party mood.
Samp were guaranteed their top flight status on Sunday after Cagliari were beaten 3-1 by title-chasing Inter Milan, leaving Marco Giampaolo’s side four points above the drop zone before they kicked off in their penultimate fixture of the season.
Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2022