Goals from Arturo Vidal, Leonardo Bonucci and Mirko Vucinic allowed Juventus to shatter Roma’s 17-match unbeaten start to the league campaign with an emphatic 3-0 win that takes the reigning champions eight points clear of their nearest rivals at the summit of Serie A.
Billed as a top-of-the-table clash between this season’s most realistic contenders for Scudetto glory, the Bianconeri rose to the challenge with a rousing display in front of a capacity crowd at Juventus Stadium.
Early Roma pressure was soon undone by Vidal’s opener on 10 minutes following good work from Carlos Tevez, while Bonucci made it the perfect start to the second period when he slid in to divert Andrea Pirlo’s expertly delivered set piece beyond Morgan De Sanctis.
The hosts’ advantage forced the Giallorossi to throw caution to the wind as the second half wore on, only for their chances of redemption to be dealt a major blow with two red cards in 60 seconds issued to Daniele De Rossi and Leandro Castan, with substitute Mirko Vucinic converting the resulting penalty issued for the latter’s deliberate handball on the line.
There were few surprises when it came to Antonio Conte’s selection for the Bianconeri’s first encounter of the new year, with the pre-match question marks that hung over the involvement of Andrea Barzagli, Pirlo and Tevez all answered by the trio’s inclusion in the starting line-up.
Welcomed out on to the field of play by a boisterous crowd already whipped into a frenzy by the earlier homecoming of club legend David Trezeguet, Juventus looked to immediately set about their opponents at the get-go but were prevented from doing so by a team boasting Serie A’s only unbeaten record this season.
If anything it was the visitors who started the brighter of the two, Francesco Totti advancing from deep before playing in Miralem Pjanic for the first opportunity of the game on 10 minutes, with the attacking midfielder well smothered by Buffon when shooting towards goal from an acute angle.
But the division’s best defence was soon faced with the prospect of picking the ball out of the net when South American duo Tevez and Vidal combined neatly inside the area with 17 minutes played, the latter bulging the back of the net after squeezing the Argentine’s intricate through ball between Morgan De Sanctis and his near post.
Back came Roma with an instant response, Gervinho feeding Pjanic for an effort that was efficiently dealt with by Gigi Buffon’s low dive. The goalkeeper was called into action on two further occasions in quick succession, stopping goalbound attempts from Pjanic and Dodo as the Giallorossi cranked up the pressure.
With the pendulum of a breathtaking affair beginning to swing back in the hosts’ favour, Paul Pogba, a driving force throughout, saw a fierce strike at goal blocked after Pirlo’s short free-kick had caught Rudi Garcia’s men off guard, while Fernando Llorente’s first-time rifle from the edge of the box shaved the crossbar with the fans on their feet.
It was another Pirlo set-piece routine that gave the Bianconeri the two-goal cushion they had been craving within three minutes of emerging from the interval. This time Bonucci was the gleeful recipient, ghosting in unmarked at the back post to turn the ball past De Sanctis’ despairing dive for his second goal of the Serie A campaign.
Tasked with overturning a significant deficit, Roma committed bodies forward but found clear-cut chances hard to come by as Juventus closed ranks and defended with commitment and resolve.
Their cause was not helped by De Rossi’s crude two-footed lunge on Giorgio Chiellini, a clear sign of frustration on a night where the Bianconeri enjoyed the lion’s share of the action.
Things went from bad to worse less than 60 seconds later, when Castan’s deliberate handball on the line saw him join De Rossi for an early bath, with substitute Vucinic stepping up to haunt his former employers with a coolly dispatched spot kick that put the final outcome beyond question on 77 minutes.