Soccer

Juventus wins 28th Serie A title

Juventus won its 28th Serie A title and first in nine years after beating Cagliari 2-0 to stay unbeaten and second-place AC Milan lost 4-2 to Inter Milan in the next-to-last round of the season on Sunday.
Juventus players celebrate Mirko Vucinic’s goal during a Serie A match against Cagliari on Sunday. (Paolo Giovannini/Associated Press)

Juventus completed the recovery from its darkest period following the 2006 matchfixing scandal as it claimed its first Serie A title in nine years Sunday.

The Bianconeri won its 28th league title as it defeated Cagliari 2-0 to stay unbeaten and second-place AC Milan lost 4-2 to Inter Milan in the next-to-last round of the season. Juventus is four points ahead of Milan.

It has been a long road since the 2005 and 2006 titles were stripped from Juventus and it was relegated to Serie B but finally under young coach Antonio Conte, one of Italy's oldest clubs proved it is back to its best once more.

It is a fitting end to the Juventus career of legendary striker Alessandro Del Piero who is leaving the club at the end of campaign. Del Piero has spent almost his entire career at Juventus after signing from Padova in 1993 and he stuck by the club when it was relegated.

Del Piero can complete a dream farewell campaign by helping Juventus to the double in the Coppa Italia final against Napoli on May 20.

"Today we are celebrating a title that everyone deserved and I am happy to have contributed," Del Piero said. "I start every year to win, sometimes it doesn't happen, but what happened today rewards me for so many years, starting from 2006. In two weeks we have another game we want to win.

"I've experienced my story here very well, with great enthusiasm and happiness. I just want to smile and that's it. There's time to talk about the rest. This title has even more value also because of the year we spent in Serie B. I will celebrate it to the max because each win has a special taste."

Conte played for Juventus the last time it won the league officially. He spent 13 years with the Bianconeri, winning five league titles before retiring in 2004.

The debate over whether it is Juventus' 28th or 30th title is set to run and run. Conte refused to be drawn on the subject, saying: "It's the first for me. It's the first that I've won as a coach."

Conte became Juventus coach in the off-season, after achieving promotion from Serie B with Siena. The 42-year-old has enjoyed an incredible season in charge and Juve could cap it by becoming only the second team to win the title without losing a game, since AC Milan did it under Fabio Capello in 1992.

"It is a fantastic sensation," the 42-year-old said. "We are really happy, the lads deserved it and it's an honour to win it. Milan was a very strong adversary. I realized in the run-in that my team still had energy, while they (Milan) were a bit tired. To finish the league unbeaten would be something historic."

Defending champion Milan had the chance to take the title race to the last round of the season but a hat trick from Diego Milito — including two penalties — and a stunning goal by Maicon gave Inter victory in a thrilling and contentious derby match.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a double for Milan. It will be the first time since 2004 that the former Ajax, Juventus, Inter and Barcelona striker won't be in the team with the most league points.

"It was a good derby, unfortunately we made some mistakes and lost," Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said. "It's hard to weigh up our season immediately after this game. Milan fought until the end, Juventus deserved it. We have to start again next year and fight like we have done this year.

"The lads have had a great season and next year we'll start again, looking to win the league again and improve our performance in the Champions League. Juve deserved to win. There's no point in analyzing our season in a second. We have a game left and we'll try to win it to reach 80 points."

Juventus took an early lead with its first real chance. Leonardo Bonucci sent a long ball over the top of the defence, and Mirko Vucinic beat the offside trap to race clear and slot the ball home between goalkeeper Michael Agazzi's legs.

There was bad news for Juventus when Stephan Lichtsteiner was taken off on a stretcher while wearing a neck brace after a clash of heads with Cagliari strike Mauricio Pinilla. Lichtsteiner was taken to a hospital.

Juve made sure of the result in the 74th minute, Martin Caceres crossing into the area and Michele Canini slicing the ball horribly over his own goalkeeper and into the back of the net.

As news filtered through of Inter's fourth goal three minutes from time, the celebrations began in earnest in Trieste.

Milan needed to win to keep its title chances alive but Inter took the lead when Walter Samuel found Milito, who slotted the ball into the bottom left corner.

It was almost worse for Milan six minutes later when Inter playmaker Wesley Sneijder's strike was parried by goalkeeper Christian Abbiati and Lucio fired home the rebound. The attempt was rightly ruled out for offside.

Inter midfielder Esteban Cambiasso thought he had scored shortly after the half hour, however Abbiati stopped the header and referee Nicola Rizzoli judged that the ball hadn't crossed the line. Replays appeared to show otherwise.

There was further controversy minutes before halftime when Rizzoli awarded a penalty to Milan after Julio Cesar had brought down Kevin-Prince Boateng, even though the Inter goalkeeper had clearly reached the ball first.

Julio Cesar tried to put off Ibrahimovic, even walking right up to his former teammate to say something before sticking his tongue out. However, it was to no avail as Ibrahimovic tucked away his 27th goal of the season and his 10th penalty.

It took Ibrahimovic just 30 seconds of the second half to double his tally, bursting between Maicon and Lucio before shooting into the bottom left corner.

Inter felt hard done by again when Cambiasso was denied a penalty after he appeared to have been bundled down by Sulley Muntari and Mario Yepes. Moments later, the team received a spot kick following a moment of madness from Ignazio Abate, who hauled down Milito. The Argentine levelled from the spot.

Inter was awarded another penalty 11 minutes from time after Alessandro Nesta handled in the area. Milan thought the handball was accidental but Rizzoli waved away the protests and Milito completed his hat trick.

Maicon sealed the result and Milan's fate with a long-range effort that flew in just underneath the crossbar.

Meanwhile, in the race for third place, Udinese is now in pole position to claim Italy's last Champions League place after it beat nine-man Genoa 2-0 and Napoli lost by the same score at Bologna.

Antonio di Natale and Antonio Floro Flores scored for Udinese, which played more than 50 minutes with a two-man advantage after Juraj Kucka and Rodrigo Palacio were dismissed for Genoa.

Lazio also has an outside chance of reaching Europe's elite after beating Atalanta 2-0 to close to within two points of Udinese.

Elsewhere, Palermo and Chievo Verona both let two-goal advantages slip to draw 4-4. In a meaningless match between two sides already relegated, Novara beat Cesena 3-0. Sebastian Giovinco's stunning long-range strike helped Parma to a 2-0 win at Siena.

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