The Bianconeri extended their lead at the top of the Serie A table to eight points after Leonardo Bonucci’s header on the hour-mark saw them come from behind to draw 1-1 at Udinese’s Dacia Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Following Tuesday’s dramatic win over Napoli in the Coppa Italia, this was the second time in less than a week that Juve were forced to dig deep for a result that, while not the victory they would have wanted before kick-off, could still prove to be a very useful point in the grand scheme of the season.
Having warned against underestimating today’s opponents in yesterday’s press conference, Massimiliano Allegri fielded arguably his strongest possible starting XI, but chances for the visitors were few, far between and scarcely threatening, Oscar Karnezis comfortably saving Miralem Pjanic’s effort from range before Paulo Dybala skewed wide of the mark.
Indeed, it was Luigi Del Neri’s charges that would carve out the best opening of the game before scoring when on 16 minutes, Jakub Jankto headed wide with Duvan Zapata almost latching on to the ball from close out.
Just 21 minutes later, however, Zapata was celebrating a fine breakthrough goal when he drove down the left, fending off Juve’s defenders and prodded firmly past Gianluigi Buffon to hand the hosts a deserved first-half lead.
Udinese would start the second half the brighter of the two teams too, Leonardo Bonucci cutting out another strong Zapata run, and the Juve defender would soon be decisive at the other end of the field, heading home Dybala’s free-kick into the top corner to pull the Bianconeri back on level terms with half an hour left to play.
The goal galvanised the visitors who, despite riding their luck when Danilo nodded against Buffon’s post, grew into the game with Pjanic and Cuadrado both racing into the area and stopped in their tracks at the last minute.
Bonucci, who was putting in a man of the match performance for Juve, would be called upon yet again, making a crucial, last-ditch interception on Zapata’s cross for Jankto. Back down the other end of the field, the ball fell for Higuain who pulled the trigger within the box only to be denied by Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu’s flying challenge.
That would be that, leaving Allegri and company with mixed sentiments as they head back to Turin. Focus now turns to Friday night’s meeting with Milan at Juventus Stadium, where a return to winning ways will be more than welcome in aiding the league leaders’ pursuit of a sixth straight Scudetto title.