Juventus wrapped up a critical week in their season in style on Sunday afternoon as Gonzalo Higuain’s superbly taken double fired them to a 3-1 win over Torino in the 143rd Derby della Mole at the Stadio Olimpico.
Falling behind early on to Andrea Belotti’s well-placed near-post header inside 20 minutes, the champions rallied either side of half time as Higuain, netting two clincally taken strikes from inside the box, and Miralem Pjanic swung proceedings back in the Old Lady’s favour and kept bragging rights firmly in the black and white half of Turin.
Played at breakneck speed with tackles flying in from both sides, one of the most eagerly anticipated derby encounters between the pair in years began as any local clash should but not in the way Juventus would have liked.
For, despite a largely positive start from the Bianconeri, it was hosts Torino who landed the first punch. Moments after goalkeeper Joe Hart had denied Mario Mandzukic with an excellent instinctive save, the home side took an underserved lead on 16 minutes.
Surging forward on the counter attack, Davide Zappacosta and Daniele Baselli combined to set up Belotti, the Italian darting in front of Stephan Lichtsteiner at the near post to glance a header into the opposite corner.
A spirited Juventus revival and a well-earned equaliser however was just around the corner. More excellent work from Mandzukic this time in the inside-right position opened up space for Higuain in the box to hit a shot into the ground, over Hart and into the net for his 11th goal of the season. One apiece at the break.
The second period began much as the first had finished, with both sides turning over possession regularly and neither able to capitalise on the other’s mistakes. Whatever chances were made went in favour of Torino as Marco Benassi and Iago Falque both failed to hit the target from central positions shortly before the hour mark.
And, fifteen minutes later, Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men ought to have reclaimed the lead, Adem Ljajic stepping inside Lichtsteiner down the Torino left and curling a shot inches past the far post with Gianluigi Buffon beaten.
Then, from nowhere, Juventus did and a new derby day hero was born. A seemingly harmless long ball floated into the Torino penalty area, defender Antonio Barecca hesitated and one man in the Stadio Olimpico was alive to where it would fall.
Within a heartbeat, Higuain had pounced, killed the ball dead with one touch, held off a challenge and slammed an unstoppable low drive into the net to send the Bianconeri fans behind the goal into raptures and put Juve in front for the first time in the game, his third strike in the space of four days.
A good afternoon soon got better for the league leaders, Miralem Pjanic adding the gloss to a huge victory by slotting home on the rebound in stoppage time after Higuain had been denied his hat-trick by Hart.
Turin remains black and white.