Juventus
    17.12.2016 22:56 - in: Match report S

    Higuain makes it 100 for 2016!

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    Gonzalo Higuain’s fabulous left-footed winner seals a crucial three points for Juventus against Roma, their 100th of the calendar year

    Juventus equalled their own record for consecutive home league victories (25) by defeating Roma on Saturday night, racking up a total of 100 Serie A points in 2016 in the process.

    And, for the second time in six days, the Bianconeri had Gonzalo Higuain to thank, the Argentine smashing superbly past Wojciech Szczesny on 14 minutes to decide a tightly contested encounter between Italy’s two form sides.  

    For all of Juve’s dominance in the opening period, a spell rightly crowned by Higuain’s match-winning drive from distance, a spirited Roma fightback in the second period may well have yielded an equaliser. The Old Lady, as is often her way, grinded out a result that guaranteed the champions’ spot atop the Serie A tree for Christmas.

    Roared on by a record-high Juventus Stadium crowd of 41,470, the Bianconeri began the game like a team that had won every single one of their last 24 home league matches.

    As had been consistently the case in the previous few weeks, it was Mario Mandzukic who led the Bianconeri charge from the front early on and the Croatian’s endeavour almost set up the game’s opening goal inside 10 minutes, his excellent run and cross setting up Gonzalo Higuain who could only side-foot straight at Szczesny when well placed to do better.

    At the second time of asking four minutes later, he would not make the same mistake twice. Collecting the ball on the edge of the box, the number 9 bustled through two limp Roma challenges, steadied himself and smashed a superb left-footed shot past Szczesny via the post to raise the roof off an already boisterous Juventus Stadium.

    With Juve a goal to the good, the intensity of the encounter remained mercilessly high with yellow cards flashed in the direction of both sets of players but little in the way of further scoring chances, Higuain and Claudio Marchisio both testing Szczesny’s reflexes albeit from offside positions.

    The last act of the half however almost went in favour of the visitors at the end of one of their only meaningful forays forward as Kostas Manolas smashed a shot into a wall of Juve defenders stationed on the six-yard box after Daniele De Rossi’s corner had been half-cleared. Advantage Juve at the break.

    Both Bianconeri and Giallorossi picked up where they left off for round two and it was the former that continued to press home their advantage, Alex Sandro twice beating opposite number Antonio Rudiger for pace down the Juve left to first win a corner and then almost pick out Mandzukic with an excellent cross from the touchline.

    With Juve back firmly in the ascendency, Roma had keeper Szczesny to thank for keeping them in the contest, the former Arsenal stopper plunging expertly to punch away Stefano Sturaro’s low drive after Mandzukic’s smart reverse pass in the box.

    The Pole’s heroics regalvanised the away side and twice Luciano Spalletti’s men had opportunities to equalise as the game approached its final quarter of an hour both involving wideman Diego Perotti.

    The Giallorossi ended the night firmly on top as the runs of substitutes Salah and Stephan El Shaarawy forced the home side deep into their own territory but the Bianconeri defence, marvelously marshalled by Daniele Rugani and Giorgio Chiellini, stood firm to seal a huge three points.

    At least in Serie A, Christmas will be black and white. Now for the Super Cup.

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