Some games can define a season, some can produce a year’s worth of emotion within 90 minutes, some of such importance that they are looked back upon months later as a turning point in the campaign.
Friday’s last-gasp 2-1 victory over Milan at Juventus Stadium can lay claim to doing all of the above
On a night of highly charged drama, countless chances and two relentlessly committed opponents, it took a Paulo Dybala penalty with the very last kick of the game to seal victory for the home side, a fitting end to a fabulous evening of entertainment.
Medhi Benatia’s thumping strike at the end of a flowing team move set Juve on course for a 31st consecutive home victory on the half-hour mark only for Carlos Bacca to equalise on the stroke of half time. An array of saves from Milan keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma kept the scores that way until the very last play, but Juventus were not be denied for a second week in a row.
The Bianconeri dominated proceedings from the first whistle, carving Milan open at will in the opening 45 minutes with Marko Pjaca, not even in the starting line up until half an hour before kick off, coming to the fore, forcing Donnarumma into action with just four minutes on the clock.
Second, third and fourth clear openings were not far behind. Paulo Dybala’s breathtaking surge through the middle tore open the Rossoneri defence who could only watch as the Argentine teed up the lively Pjaca to curl inches past the post while Donnarumma and centre back Cristian Zapata would have to be at their sharpest to deny Dybala a goal himself moments later.
The Bianconeri relentlessly poured forward, Pjaca rising highest to expertly guide a high ball into the path of Gonzalo Higuain whose fierce half-volley once again found the gloves of Milan’s goalkeeper.
Much the busier of the two Gianluigis, there was nothing the youngster could do about the game’s breakthrough goal however which would come from one of the most unlikely sources from a move initiated and concluded up by two defenders.
Picking off a stray pass in midfield, Medhi Benatia strode into the Milan half with one thing on his mind. Laying the ball to his right, the Moroccan made a beeline to the box where he was picked out by the most delicate of chips by Dani Alves.
With no offside flag forthcoming and the Milan defence motionless, Benatia finished what he had started in style by smashing into the bottom corner on the volley.
Yet, with half-time looming, the dominant hosts were made to pay for converting just one of their countless chances as Carlos Bacca slid Gerard Deulofeu’s clever pass through the legs of Gianluigi Buffon to level the scores at the break against the run of play.
The second half resumed much as the first had started with Massimiliano Allegri’s side firmly back on the front foot. Likewise, Pjaca picked up where he had left off, almost crafting a second Juve goal, Milan requiring two lines of defence to deal with Sami Khedira’s shot on the run from the his incisive dribble and cross.
There began the second onslaught on the Milan goal. Pjaca arrowed inches wide on the angle and flashed a sidefoot volley past the post, Miralem Pjanic’s shot was turned onto the bar by Donnarumma and Leonardo Bonucci’s header was diverted off target.
Many home supporters would have been excused for believing that this would not be their night on 70 minutes as Donnarumma produced yet more heroics to get a strong wrist to Sami Khedira’s firmly struck effort before getting back to his feet to bundle behind Higuain’s spectacular scissor kick on the rebound.
But this is Juventus we are talking about.
With the game lurching towards a stalemate, a heart-stopping finale had Juventus Stadium bouncing like never before this season.
A final sprawling save from Donnarumma off Higuain looked to have decided things only for the ball to bounce off a Milan hand in the last minute of added time.
Dybala flawless from the spot, Juventus still untouchable on home turf.
What a night to be black and white.