Monza have caused the biggest upset of the Serie A season so far, beating Juventus 1-0 at the Stadio Brianteo.
Juve came into this match on the back of a four-match winless run in all competitions, leaving manager Massimiliano Allegri under intense pressure. Having been sent off for protesting Arkadiusz Milik’s disallowed winner against Salernitana last Sunday, he was replaced on the touchline by his assistant Marco Landucci who, having presided over impressive wins against Udinese and Roma while stepping in for Allegri in January, had arguably more cachet among supporters at kick off.
Monza, who started the game rock bottom of the table, made the brighter start to the match, Nicolo Rovella giving Mattia Perin a scare with a zipping shot on the volley. Stefano Sensi, Patrick Ciurria and Dany Mota also had decent chances to score, the latter heading over from close range after a raking pass from Brazilian defender Marlon, while Juve were limited to a handful of half-chances for Dusan Vlahovic.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors when, on the 40-minute mark, Angel Di Maria was sent off for throwing an elbow into Armando Izzo’s chest as the Monza defender harried him in the middle of the park. It was borderline, but referee Fabio Maresca was in no mood to let it slide despite Di Maria’s furious protestations.
The second half was end-to-end, with Monza having a flurry of chances via Rovella, Gianluca Caprari and substitute Christian Gytkjaer. Juve almost punished them on the break, however, with Danilo squandering a three-on-one before heading over at a free kick not long afterwards.
With just over 15 minutes left to play, Monza finally broke the deadlock. Ciurria crossed to the near post, where Gytkjaer was waiting to turn home from close range.
Juve had chances to equalise late on, not least when Weston McKennie teed up Moise Kean for a header which he nodded straight at Monza goalkeeper Michele Di Gregorio from five yards. Landucci may not be so popular with supporters now, but Allegri faces a full-blown crisis of confidence among the Juve faithful.
Soft red card? Juve fans may lament the manner of Di Maria’s sending-off given that, on another day, the incident could easily have resulted in a yellow card and a ticking off. Izzo certainly made the most of it, going down in theatrical agony which, given the lack of force behind Di Maria’s elbow, seemed a bit excessive.
That said, swinging an elbow at an opponent can always be interpreted as violent conduct and, as such, Di Maria has nobody to blame but himself. In truth, he was so ineffectual during the 40 minutes he was on the pitch that, even if he left his teammates stretched thin, it was easy to overlook his absence.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Pablo Mari (Monza). Having joined Monza on loan from Arsenal last month, Mari had his best game so far in a (slightly different shade of) red shirt.
He made a crucial interception to stop Danilo from picking out Gleison Bremer to his right during that three-on-one break, denying Juve a likely goal. Otherwise he was generally cool and collected in the centre of Monza’s three-man defence, shackling Vlahovic, marshalling his fellow centre-backs and winning his aerial duels as Juve pumped long balls into the box with increasing desperation as the clock ticked down.
Monza: Di Gregorio 7, Marlon 7, Mari 8, Izzo 7, Ciurria 8, Rovella 7, Sensi 7, Carlos 7, Pessina 7, Mota 6, Caprari 5
Subs: Barberis 6, Gytkjaer 8, Caldirola 6, Colpani 6, Birindelli N/A
Juventus: Perin 6, Danilo 5, Bremer 5, Gatti 4, De Sciglio 6, Miretti 5, Paredes 5, McKennie 6, Kostic 4, Vlahovic 4, Di Maria 2
Subs: Kean 5, Fagioli N/A, Soule N/A
12’ BIG CHANCE! Marlon picks out Mota in the box with an excellent cross from deep. Mota has a free header, but can only balloon it over the crossbar.
30’ GOOD HIT! Ciurria finds himself in space on the right and decides to have a crack from long range. It dips promisingly, but not quite enough.
32’ SAVE! Sensi is the latest Monza player to have a go, but his shot is far too close to Perin.
40’ RED CARD! Izzo harries Di Maria in midfield and the Juve forward lashes out, swinging his elbow into his opponent’s chest. Referee Fabio Maresca produces a straight red card. It seems a little over the top given that there wasn’t that much force behind it but, then again, it was completely needless on Di Maria’s part.
68’ JUVE WASTE A THREE-ON-ONE! Danilo comes bounding forwards on the counter-attack and, suddenly, Juve have numerical superiority. He tries to pick out Bremer to his right when Filip Kostic to his left looks like the better option, allowing Mari to leap in and make a crucial interception.
74’ GOAL! The upset is on. Ciurria whips in a beautiful cross to the near post, where Gytkjaer is on hand to sweep home at close range.