Juventus extended their own Serie A record of consecutive home victories to 30 on Saturday night courtesy of well taken second-half goals from Mario Mandzukic and Alex Sandro.
After flattering to deceive in a frustrating opening period against a well organised Empoli defence, Massimiliano Allegri’s men dug deep in the second to temporarily extend their lead over second-placed Roma to ten points, on a night where fellow challengers Napoli were defeated 2-0 at home to Atalanta.
Six new faces were drafted into the side after Wednesday’s crucial 2-0 away success in Portugal, and after a steady start, Allegri’s reshuffle had its desired effect after the break as the champions’ superior quality showed after the interval.
In an energetici if not productive opening to proceedings, half-chances would come and go for Gonzalo Higuain - poking straight at goalkeeper Leon Skorupski from the six-yard line - and Mario Mandzukic - stabbing wide on the stretch from Juan Cuadrado’s drilled cross from the right - before the pair crafted the biggest of them all, the Argentine sweeping in a lovely pass for his strike partner who needed too long to shoot with the goal gaping.
A Miralem Pjanic free-kick struck into the Empoli wall on the stroke of half-time summed up a frustrating first 45 minutes for the Bianconeri.
The profligacy that characterised the first half was fortunately replaced by precision in the second. Immediately back on the front foot after the restart, the home side needed just two more chances to break the deadlock. The first, a surprisingly hurried strike on the volley from Higuain after Mandzukic’s knockdown, the second dispatched with the highest quality.
For, on 52 minutes, Juve’s - and in particular Mandzukic’s – persistence would finally pay off in style. With the away defence retreating, Juan Cuadrado found space down the right to cross for the big Croatian to thunder an unstoppable header onto the underside of the crossbar and over the line via the back of Skorupski.
The home crowd were on their feet again a quarter of an hour later to salute a team goal worthy of winning any game. Slick combination play between Claudio Marchisio, Gonzalo Higuain and Cuadrado worked a crossing position for Dani Alves and the Brazilian delivered a low cross for his compatriot Alex Sandro to swivel on the spot and roll into the far corner.
Late cameos for Paulo Dybala and European hero Marko Pjaca would add to the carnival atmosphere inside Juventus Stadium as Allegri’s men cruised home to an ultimately comfortable three points.
Napoli and the Coppa Italia semi-final await on Tuesday night.