MILAN, January 22 – A late goal from Ivorian striker Gervinho helped Serie A title challengers Roma book their ticket for the Italian Cup semi-finals with a deserved 1-0 win over Serie A leaders Juventus on Tuesday.
Roma, defeated in last year’s final by city rivals Lazio, will find out their last four rivals following the quarter-final tie between Napoli and Lazio on January 29.
Roma had suffered a 3-0 league defeat to Juventus a fortnight ago and with the hosts losing last season’s final to Lazio, coach Rudi Garcia fielded a full-strength side at a packed Olympic Stadium.
Juve counterpart Antonio Conte, meanwhile, took the opposite approach.
He rested ‘keeper Gianluigi Buffon, a number of midfield stars including Paul Pogba, Kwadwo Asamoah and Stephan Lichsteiner and strikers Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente.
In the end, Conte’s strategy backfired as Roma’s far more enterprising approach paid dividends.
Captain Francesco Totti told Rai Sport: “We wanted this win at all costs…. tonight we matched a great Juve side.”
Asked who Roma would prefer to meet in the final four, Totti added: “That’s their problem, not ours.”
Conte claimed he was “happy with my players’ performance” and said he had no regrets about replacing his top players with those who often warm the substitutes bench.
“The Cup is a competition like any other but we’ve always seen it as an opportunity to give certain players time on the pitch, that’s nothing new for us.
“We need to have all our players on form for the championship and for the Europa League.”
Roma dominated the early exchanges but it took until late in the half for them to threaten the Juventus goal.
Vasilis Torosidis whipped in a superb curling ball at the far post with which Kevin Strootman, at full stretch, narrowly failed to make contact.
Totti then saw his volleyed snapshot go wide, while Alessandro Florenzi failed to reach Gervinho’s ball when it was fired across the box.
Juve had the ball in the net shortly after the restart when Federico Peloso headed home from close range, but his effort was ruled out after Mauricio Isla’s curling cross from deep on the right was ruled to have gone out of play.
Florenzi was next to come close with a header from Torosidis which took Juve’s number two ‘keeper Marco Storari by surprise but the second half was nowhere near as productive as the first.
As the game stalled, Garcia replaced Florenzi with Miralem Pjanic while Conte attempted to waken his team from their relative slumber by replacing striker Sebastian Giovinco with Llorente on 77 minutes.
Garcia’s switch was to pay dividends, Pjanic reaching the ball, before Andrea Barzagli, to stride forward and feed Strootman deep on the left.
The Dutchman’s cross arrived in the box and Gervinho did well to tap the ball home with the side of his right boot in the 79th minute.
Roma were fired up and Totti delivered the ball for Gervinho which the striker missed, and minutes later the Ivorian sent a low, weak shot into the arms of Storari after late substitute Adem Ljajic had carried the ball from midfield.
Pjanic then came close with a shot in injury time, while Juve’s frustrations boiled over with Chilean Arturo Vidal cautioned for dissent.
On Wednesday Milan host Udinese for their second match under new coach Clarence Seedorf with high-flying Fiorentina away to Serie B side Siena a day later.