Arkadiusz Milik sparked bedlam in Turin. But then the real chaos began | Nicky Bandini

There were VAR mistakes and red cards galore at Juventus v Salernitana as one controversy became submerged in the next

Arkadiusz Milik knew the punishment but still committed the crime, ripping off his shirt and throwing it in the air as he barrelled toward Juventus’s supporters behind the goal. They came tumbling down the stand towards him, delirious and disbelieving. In the 91st minute, their team had trailed 2-1 at home to Salernitana. Now, in the 95th, Milik had scored to put them 3-2 ahead.

A comeback worth getting sent off for. Milik had been shown a yellow card 10 minutes earlier, so his celebration would earn him a red. Even after the referee, Matteo Marcenaro, showed it to him, the striker continued to high five teammates on his way towards the tunnel.

Salernitana might not be glamorous opponents – a team who spent most of last season in the relegation zone – but Juventus needed this. They had collected only two wins from their first five Serie A matches, before being beaten by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League. This was supposed to be the season when they returned to the forefront of Italian football. Massimiliano Allegri said in July that his team had a “duty” to win the Scudetto.

Milik’s goal felt like a turning point, Juventus recovering from two goals down, rediscovering the trait that used to define them: the ability to just win when they did not deserve to. And then, it was taken away from them by a VAR review.

Marcenaro was sent to the monitor and shown footage of Leonardo Bonucci behind the Salernitana defence as Milik headed across goal from a corner. The Juventus player had tried, unsuccessfully, to get a touch. In Marcenaro’s interpretation, Bonucci was interfering with play. There is a discussion to be had on this, given the ball already appeared to be beyond the reach of goalkeeper Luigi Sepe. Less debatable was the fact this camera angle was the wrong one – completely missing Antonio Candreva, who had moved out towards the corner flag and was playing everyone onside.

One controversy became submerged in the next. A bench-clearing scuffle resulted in further red cards for Juventus’s Juan Cuadrado and Salernitana’s Federico Fazio, as well as Allegri himself. None of them may serve their suspensions as unhappily as Milik: sent off for celebrating a wrongly disallowed goal. He posted a video showing Candreva’s position to his social media channels on Sunday, saying he had “no words”.

The Polish striker has been a bright note in this disappointing start to the season for Juventus, joining on loan from Marseille at the end of the transfer window and scoring in each of his two previous league appearances. He has known mixed fortunes since leaving Napoli to join the French club last year, prolific patches interspersed with dry runs and niggling injuries.

Perceived as a backup to Dusan Vlahovic, another tall and muscular No 9 who can fill a similar role, Milik’s fast start may increase calls for the two to play together. Despite scoring four in his first four league games, and having another goal correctly disallowed for offside on Sunday, Vlahovic has often looked isolated in attack.

Allegri had appealed for patience in his pre-game press conference, reminding reporters that Paul Pogba, Ángel Di María and Federico Chiesa were all injured and contending that a whole new season would begin after the World Cup. Juventus won five of their nine consecutive league titles during his previous tenure, but did not always start fast in those seasons, either. In 2015-16, they picked up five points from their opening six games, yet finished on 91.

Arkadiusz Milik of Juventus celebrates after believing he had won the game for Juventus.
Arkadiusz Milik of Juventus celebrates after believing he had won the game for Juventus. Photograph: Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Still, there is anxiousness among supporters. The re-hiring of Allegri last summer was supposed to mark a return to the “just win” mentality of the 2010s, an abandonment of the idealism that led the club to hire Maurizio Sarri and Andrea Pirlo. As Allegri reiterated: “We don’t need to be pretty, likable losers, but unpleasant winners.” Fail to triumph, though, and you are left with the worst of both worlds.

The lack of enthusiasm for this team was evident from empty seats at the Allianz Stadium. Salernitana’s traveling support provided a contrast. There were officially 1,300 packing out the away section, but a fair few more whose allegiance became evident as their team roared to an early lead.

Never in their history had Salernitana held a two-goal advantage away at half-time in a Serie A match, yet this was richly deserved. Repeatedly they caught Juventus out with long balls, and it was a raking right-to-left pass from Dylan Bronn that found Pasquale Mazzocchi, who performed a triple stepover to freeze Weston McKennie before whipping in a cross for Candreva to score at the back post.

The second came from the penalty spot, Krzysztof Piatek converting in first-half injury time. The same striker had earned the opportunity when his shot struck Gleison Bremer’s hand after more direct play down the right.

Bremer got Juventus back into the game with a thumping header at the start of the second half, but Salernitana did not wilt. The hosts huffed and puffed but still were on course for defeat until a clumsy challenge from Tonny Vilhena gifted them a penalty of their own in the 91st minute. Sepe parried Bonucci’s attempt but the Juventus player did well to hook home the rebound.

Then came Milik’s header, mistakes in the VAR booth and red cards galore. By the time the dust settled, both teams might have considered this an opportunity missed. Juventus were wronged, but Salernitana had been within touching distance of a famous win.

A dramatic ending between Juventus and Salernitana.

Arkadiusz Milik thought he had scored a 96th-minute winner for the Old Lady, having come from 2-0 down to win 3-2...

But the goal was ruled out through VAR and Milik was given a second yellow card for taking his shirt off.

— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) September 11, 2022

It feels a world away from where Salernitana were at the end of 2021, when 16 fans made a 1,000-mile round-trip to attend a game cancelled due to Covid. At the time, they were bottom and on the brink of being thrown out of the league due to the conflict of interest created by them sharing an owner with Lazio.

The situation was finally resolved with Daniele Iervolino taking over, before hiring relegation escape specialist Davide Nicola as manager. Salernitana collected more points from the next 14 games than they had from the first 23 and reached safety with one to spare.

This season they are aiming higher. After falling out with Salernitana’s highly-reputed sporting director Walter Sabatini, Iervolino replaced him with Morgan De Sanctis and began a squad overhaul. Fifteen players have been added, for an outlay of more than €40m. Nicola was retained and offered a chance to show he can do more than just a rescue job.

So far, results have impressed. Salernitana’s only loss was against Roma on the opening weekend. Heading into Sunday’s clash, they could boast better possession stats and more shots on goal than their opponents.

Sampdoria 1-2 Milan, Internazionale 1-0 Torino, Napoli 1-0 Spezia, Juventus 2-2 Salernitana, Lazio 2-0 Verona, Sassuolo 1-3 Udinese, Lecce 1-1 Monza, Bologna 2-1 Fiorentina, Atalanta 1-1 Cremonese

New arrivals have integrated quickly. Piatek was making his first start, but his equally impressive strike partner Boulaye Dia has three goals and two assists already. Giulio Maggiore, a 24-year-old signed from Spezia, more than held his own in a midfield battle with the Argentina international Leandro Paredes.

“I think this was two points lost for us,” said Piatek after the final whistle. Salernitana were lucky not to lose, but disappointed not to win at the same time.

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Napoli 6 9 14
2 Atalanta 6 7 14
3 AC Milan 6 6 14
4 Udinese 6 6 13
5 Inter Milan 6 4 12
6 Lazio 6 4 11
7 Roma 5 1 10
8 Juventus 6 5 10
9 Torino 6 0 10
10 Salernitana 6 3 7
11 Fiorentina 6 -1 6
12 Bologna 6 -2 6
13 Sassuolo 6 -4 6
14 Verona 6 -5 5
15 Spezia 6 -5 5
16 Empoli 5 -1 4
17 Lecce 6 -3 3
18 Cremonese 6 -5 2
19 Sampdoria 6 -8 2
20 Monza 6 -11 1


Nicky Bandini

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Arkadiusz Milik and Dries Mertens help Napoli fans forget the heartache
The Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik has big shoes to fill at Napoli after Gonzalo Higuaín’s painful departure, but he combined with Dries Mertens to put Milan to the sword and get their Serie A campaign up and running

Nicky Bandini

29, Aug, 2016 @10:13 AM

Article image
Salernitana’s ghost game could be a farcical end to their Serie A journey | Nicky Bandini
A Covid-related no-show at Udinese looks the last act for Salernitana unless they can find a new owner by 31 December

Nicky Bandini

23, Dec, 2021 @2:25 PM

Article image
Men’s transfer window summer 2021 – all deals from Europe’s top five leagues
All the summer’s Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A deals and club-by-club guides

Garry Blight, Seán Clarke and Niall McVeigh

07, Jun, 2021 @2:00 PM

Article image
European roundup: Bellingham double helps Dortmund thrash VfB Stuttgart
Borussia Dortmund stormed past VfB Stuttgart 5-0 with two goals from Jude Bellingham while Bayern Munich coasted to a 2-0 win over Hoffenheim

Agencies and Observer Sport

22, Oct, 2022 @3:59 PM

Article image
European roundup: Real Madrid held by Getafe, Icardi saves PSG with winner
Atlético Madrid increased their lead at the top of La Liga while PSG climbed to within a point of the Ligue 1 leaders, Lille, after a five-goal thriller

Guardian sport and agencies

18, Apr, 2021 @9:43 PM

Article image
Milan and Juventus facing real threat of missing out on Champions League | Nicky Bandini
Lazio’s impressive win against the Rossoneri has them closing in on the struggling pair with a handful of games remaining

Nicky Bandini

27, Apr, 2021 @10:04 AM

Article image
European roundup: Real Madrid crash out of Copa del Rey to third-tier Alcoyano
Real Madrid have sensationally been knocked out of the Copa del Rey by 10-man Alcoyano while Cristiano Ronaldo arguably became the greatest scorer in all of football

Guardian sport and agencies

20, Jan, 2021 @10:54 PM

Article image
Marco Asensio hits hat-trick in Real Madrid rout while Hakimi is PSG’s hero
Sevilla scored three in the first 22 minutes to beat Valencia 3-1 while Achraf Hakimi scored in stoppage time as Paris St Germain kept their 100% record

Guardian sport

22, Sep, 2021 @10:04 PM

Article image
Juventus claim ownership of Turin with a derby victory over Torino | Paolo Bandini
Paolo Bandini: Both of these sides went into this match with a point to prove but only one of them managed to grab the Turin bull by the horns

Nicky Bandini

24, Feb, 2014 @8:37 AM

Article image
Old Lady 'taken for a ride' as patience wears thin in Turin | Paolo Bandini
Paolo Bandini: 'Referee-gate' is being blamed for Juventus's reverse at the hands of Palermo, but the club's problems run far deeper

Nicky Bandini

03, Feb, 2011 @10:47 AM