Record-breaking Juve finish league season unbeaten
Champions Juventus broke AC Milan's record of 42 matches unbeaten and finished the league season undefeated with a 3-1 win over Atalanta. It was also the perfect send-off after 19 years with the Old Lady for club captain Alessandro Del Piero, who took the armband for the final time in a Serie A game in Juve's colours and netted his team's second goal.
Youngster Luca Marrone scored the opener and Andrea Barzagli netted a last-minute penalty as Juve finished the season with 84 points, four clear of last year's champions Milan. The only blips were a late own goal from Stephan Lichsteiner and an injury to centre-back Giorgio Chiellini that could put his Euro 2012 participation at risk.
The victory meant Juve took their unbeaten run in all competitions to 43 games, including the final match of last season, a record for an Italian team. They also produced the first unbeaten Serie A campaign since Milan in 1992, and the first since Italy moved from an 18 to a 20-team league. "The aim was to remain unbeaten and to celebrate with our own fans," said coach Antonio Conte. "We managed that and that had never happened in a 20-team league.
This is a legendary season because in the future no-one will ever be able to beat what we've done, only equal it. "No-one ever gave us anything and that's reason for great pride. "Del Piero played like a champion once again but I told him the season isn't over because he must been decisive again on Sunday in the Italian Cup final against Napoli."
If they avoid defeat in next weekend's final they will become the first team to go an entire season unbeaten in league and cup, although they were helped by not playing in Europe. Their clash with Atalanta was little more than a glorified friendly. The game descended into near farce in the second period when Conte decided to substitute Del Piero so he could receive a rapturous ovation from the fans.
He got that but the sight of a league match being held up for at least a couple of minutes to affect a substitution while all his team-mates joined him in the centre-circle to salute him seemed like a scene from a testimonial match. With the game ongoing, he then embarked on a lap of honour to salute the fans.
Milan finished their season with a the perfect party scenario as 38-year-old Filippo Inzaghi scored the winner on his 300th and final appearance for the club before retiring in a 2-1 win over relegated Novara. "I'm spent, now it's hard to give up everything, my legs are there, I don't have any pain," said the man of the moment. "After the cruciate knee ligament operation I got well again.
Playing a long way from Milan is so hard but I will return to this club." With popular stalwarts Inzaghi, Gennaro Gattuso and Alessandro Nesta all making their final bow in a Milan shirt, this match took time to come to life.
Gattuso captained the side but looked a shadow of his former self while the biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for Inzaghi's entry from the bench. It was Inzaghi's 156th goal in Serie A and just to top things off, it was fellow veteran Clarence Seedorf who played the pass. Udinese secured third place and the final Champions League qualification position with a 2-0 win at Catania.
Emblematic captain Antonio Di Natale gave them a 19th-minute lead on a lightning counter-attack and Diego Fabbrini sealed the victory in the 58th minute. That result rendered Lazio's 3-1 win over Inter Milan meaningless, although that was enough to finish fourth. Diego Milito gave the visitors the lead from the penalty spot but goals from Libor Kozak, Andrea Candreva and Stefano Mauri gave the Romans victory.
Napoli finished fifth, just above Inter, after their 2-1 win over Siena. Lecce joined Cesena and Novara in Serie B after their 1-0 defeat at Chievo. Needing to win and for Genoa to lose, they could not have survived anyway as Genoa beat Palermo 2-0.