The Bianconeri overcame the first hurdle of their Coppa Italia title defence with tonight’s closely competed 3-2 victory over Atalanta at Juventus Stadium.
Goals from Paulo Dybala (after 22 minutes) and Mario Mandzukic (34) had put the hosts firmly in the driving seat at half-time, but a spirited fightback by the Nerazzurri saw them twice reduce Juve’s advantage to just the single goal, as Abdoulay Konko (72) and Junior Latte Lath (81) scored either side of Miralem Pjanic’s 75th-minute penalty.
The Bianconeri will now wait to see who they face in the competition’s quarter-finals as they look to go all the way to defending their domestic cup crown for a third successive season.
After an opening period played at lightning speed with attacks and counter-attacks to note from both sides, Juve came very close to taking the lead in the 16th minute when Mario Mandzukic struck the post from close range after receiving a right-wing cross from Stephan Lichtsteiner.
The hosts wouldn’t have to wait long until they got their noses in front, however, as Mandzukic knocked down the ball into the path of an onrushing Dybala, who needed just one touch to make his mark, sending an unstoppable left-footed half volley into the bottom corner – a true trademark finish from La Joya – his sixth in all competitions this season from 17 appearances.
On 34 minutes, the two strikers combined brilliantly once again, Dybala threading a delightful pass through to Mandzukic, who opened up his body and stroked home a precise shot into Etrit Berisha’s bottom corner.
The Croatian forward might have made it 3-0 just moments before the break, as Pjanic’s pinpoint ball landed at his feet just a few yards out, but he could only prod tamely wide of the upright.
In control at the interval, the Bianconeri continued to carve out chances in the second period, Tomas Rincon coming extremely close to a first goal for his new club after seeing his top corner-bound piledriver tipped smartly onto the crossbar by Berisha.
Atalanta, flying high in Serie A where they currently sit sixth, had not come to Turin to merely make up the numbers and were rewarded for their pressure in the 72nd minute when Konko fired in a fine effort from the edge of the area with the outside of his right foot, over Neto and off the inside of the Brazilian’s far post.
Scarcely three minutes had passed, however, and the hosts re-established their two-goal advantage when Pjanic swept home from the spot after Stephan Lichtsteiner was fouled in the area.
Nonetheless, the Nerazzurri never looked like throwing in the towel and struck back once again when substitute Junior Latte Lath ghosted past Lichtsteiner to tap past Neto and set up a grandstand finale.
The Bianconeri held firm in the dying embers of the match, however, to make sure of their passage to the Coppa Italia quarter-finals and they now turn attentions to Sunday night’s Serie A contest away to Fiorentina.