On a day when Gianluigi Buffon became the club’s all-time longest servant as his personal black and white clock ticked over to 39,681 minutes, just one number mattered for Juventus in Genoa as Juan Cuadrado’s spectacular diving header made it 24 wins from a possible 29 against Sampdoria.
Dominant early on following the Colombian’s acrobatic finish on seven minutes, the Bianconeri found themselves ruing the excellent form of stand-in keeper Christian Puggioni whose first-half performance alone kept the scores at 1-0 at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.
A Samp second-half revival made life more difficult for the visitors without testing record-breaker Buffon who ticked off one of few remaining Juve landmarks still left to be conquered in relative comfort.
Massimiliano Allegri had warned players and supporters alike that thoughts of Barcelona would have to be shelved until April with four crucial domestic fixtures on the way in between, and his charges took his advice to mind right from the off.
Juventus supporters would have been forgiven for fearing another away defeat immediately after Champions League fixture as former Bianconeri Fabio Quagliarella flashed a shot inches past the post inside six minutes but Juan Cuadrado emphatically put his side’s early nerves to rest 60 seconds later.
Excellent work down the flank from Kwadwo Asamoah made the Colombian’s flying finish that much simpler, the Ghanaian’s pinpoint cross picking out the number 7 in the middle to launch an unstoppable diving header into the net. The perfect way to celebrate a 50th Serie A appearance for the club.
From then on there was no looking back for the league leaders who proceeded to carve open the home defence with the ruthless efficiency of champions. While the pre-match talk was rightly centered on Buffon on his historic afternoon it was the veteran’s opposite number Puggioni who was keeping his team in the game.
Ten minutes after watching Cuadrado’s acrobatic effort fly past him, the 36-year old plunged superbly to his right to palm Gonzalo Higuain’s fierce right-footed drive on the angle following a defensive error, just moments after the Argentine had inadvertently blocked Mario Mandzukic’s goalbound shot with his back.
The withdrawal of Paulo Dybala through injury just before the half-hour mark threatened to take the wind out of Juve’s sails but the visitors went on to fashion the clearest of openings to double their advantage just before the break.
Exchanging the sharpest of one-twos with substitute Marko Pjaca on the edge of the box, Higuain shrugged off the attentions of a pair of Samp defenders and powered towards goal only for the sprawling Puggioni to somehow keep his effort out.
A dip in intensity saw Sampdoria gradually edged their way back into contention after the interval, but despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession, the home side failed to capitalise, kept at arm’s length by a combative Juve rearguard.
With the action bogged down in midfield and few chances of note threatening either goalkeeper, history-man Buffon could afford to take a pause and enjoy the moment midway through the second half as he became the man to have played more Serie A minutes for Juventus than any other player, overtaking Giampiero Boniperti on the 65th minute.
More importantly, the skipper was left to relish yet another three points and clean sheet as his team resisted late Samp pressure to maintain their commanding grip on the Scudetto before the international break.
Nine games to go, Juve in the driving seat.