Paulo Dybala was once again the star of the show as the Bianconeri eventually broke down Roma’s resistance to record an 11th successive Serie A win on Sunday night at Juventus Stadium.
On a night when it would take a moment of brilliance to decide a tense battle with Luciano Spalletti’s side, Dybala, as has so often been the case this term, produced the goods late on to bring his own personal tally to 14 in all competitions this season, while securing three vital points in his side’s push for a fifth straight Scudetto title.
A goalless first half had nonetheless seen the Bianconeri exhibit plenty of the free-flowing football characteristic of a team brimming with the confidence following ten league victories on the spin. Dybala was his usual menacing self and forced Wojciech Szczesny into two relatively routine saves, but ultimately the hosts were unable to carve out any obvious clear-cut opportunities before the interval.
The second period would prove to be just as quiet, although Juventus might well have taken the lead in the 69th minute when Patrice Evra was put through on goal with only the keeper to beat, but Szczesny did well to get his body in the way of a full-blooded drive from the Frenchman.
Eight minutes later, however, the Juventus Stadium faithful was brought to its feet when Paul Pogba’s clever reverse ball found Dybala, who kept his cool to steer past Szczesny and fire the hosts to within two points of league-leaders Napoli.
As is so often the case in matches of such significance, apparent nerves from both sides led to a cagey opening five minutes before Leonardo Bonucci, the scorer of last year’s winner in this fixture, helped himself to the Bianconeri’s first shot from 30 yards, hit however straight into Szczesny’s grasp.
Juventus then noticeably raced through the gears, with Dybala in particular causing Roma’s defence plenty of problems. The Argentine forward brought a second save in quick succession out of Szczesny from a dangerously positioned free-kick on the edge of the penalty area.
His next attempt, a delightful dink over the Polish stopper, rebounded off the crossbar before the linesman raised his flag for offside.
On 23 minutes, Evra too was getting involved in the final third action, smashing two drives across the face of goal, the first blocked, the second almost finding the feet of Pogba, only for the France international to be lurking in an offside position.
Moments later, the midfielder made sure he got on the end of Stephan Lichtsteiner’s luring cross into the box, but could not keep his effort down.
After a blistering 25 minutes, it was perhaps natural that a much quieter 15 would follow, as the Giallorossi began to assert themselves into the encounter, but their finishing let them down somewhat, Alessandro Florenzi shooting wildly wide of the mark when well-positioned to do better.
On the stroke of half-time, Dybala was presented with another free-kick in dangerous territory, but the 22-year-old struck too centrally to trouble Szczesny.
The second period began in similar fashion to how the first had ended, with very little in the way of goalmouth action until, in the 64th minute, Radja Nainggolan’s shot from inside the box was deflected over the crossbar.
Having come on seconds earlier for Lichtsteiner, Juan Cuadrado tried his luck from range, bringing a smart block out of Szczesny, who would excel even further on 69 minutes with an impressive point-blank save from Evra’s ferocious strike, the French left-back having been played in on goal following a neat passing move around the penalty area.
The best chance of the match might have been missed, but the Bianconeri kept their tails up and their persistence paid off eight minutes later, when Pogba slid a delicious through pass into Dybala’s path and Juve’s leading marksman made no mistake in rolling the ball purposefully past a helpless Szczesny.
Once in front, Massimiliano Allegri’s men were always determined to maintain their lead and, after surviving the scare of Miralem Pjanic’s 89th minute free-kick which was deflected over Gigi Buffon’s bar, held on for three fully deserved and crucial points in the context of their title challenge, which continues next Sunday with a trip to mid-table Chievo.