06 January 2016
For many, the New Year is a moment for changing old habits, but for Juventus, Wednesday’s home match against Hellas Verona was all about carrying the momentum that they have built over the last two-and-a-half months into 2016.
And that’s precisely what they managed to do with a convincing 3-0 victory over the Gialloblu ensuring an eighth league win on the spin that sees them move level on points with Inter before the Nerazzurri’s evening kick-off against Empoli.
The hosts would have been hard-pressed to start the game much more brightly and they found themselves a goal to the good as early as the eighth minute, when Paulo Dybala carried his fine scoring form into the second part of the season with a sumptuous free-kick from outside the box.
La Joya’s 11th strike of the campaign in all competitions was just the start of another excellent display in the black and white, in which he also excelled at providing accurate balls into the box. Leonardo Bonucci was the grateful beneficiary of one such delivery on the stroke of half-time, the defender heading powerfully past Pierluigi Gollini to double his team’s advantage and open his personal account for 2015/16 at the same time.
Chances were generally few and far between after the interval, but there was still time for Simone Zaza to skilfully round the keeper and slide home a third goal to add gloss to an all-important triumph, the Bianconeri’s sixth in a row in all competitions at Juventus Stadium.
Despite not having kicked a ball in anger for 17 days, Massimiliano Allegri’s charges showed few signs of rustiness in the early exchanges, as they immediately carved out opportunities to break the deadlock.
With less than three minutes on the clock, Dybala beat the offside trap and played the ball back for Stephan Lichtsteiner, who dragged his shot marginally wide of the far post.
Both of the above would be involved in Juve’s goal just five minutes later. It was a foul on the Swiss full-back that led to the free-kick, from which Dybala opened his account for 2016 with a wonderfully swerving drive that nestled in the top corner.
Verona responded well to going behind, however, and Gigi Buffon needed to be his usually alert self in order to keep out Giampaolo Pazzini’s dangerous volley, the forward stepping in for the injured Luca Toni before kick-off.
Back up the other end of the field, the hosts continued to pose the greater attacking threat, with Paul Pogba flashing a fierce effort wide of Gollini’s upright and Alvaro Morata bringing a fine save out of the Gialloblu stopper, who had to tip the Spaniard’s curler around the post.
Despite the odd foray forward from the visitors, it would be the Bianconeri creating all of the scoring opportunities. On 33 minutes, Claudio Marchisio came close to netting on his 250th Serie A appearance, but Gollini got everything behind the Little Prince’s low, drilled shot.
When Morata headed over the crossbar from another accurate Dybala free-kick it seemed as though Allegri’s men might have to settle for a slender 1-0 lead at half-time.
But Bonucci had other ideas when he nodded home Dybala’s delicious delivery to hand the hosts a more comfortable and deserved two-goal cushion heading into the break.
A more combative Verona emerged after the interval, which saw the ball camped more often in the middle of the park. Alex Sandro’s ferocious drive across the six-yard box proved the best chance for either side until Zaza capped off a commanding and controlled performance with his team’s third strike of the afternoon.
The forward timed his run to perfection to latch on to Pogba’s cross before sidestepping Gollini and shooting low into the net with a neat, angled finish, putting the game beyond all doubt.
Allegri’s charges will now approach their next fixture, an away trip to Sampdoria, in high spirits, where they will look to record a ninth-straight league victory to keep up the pressure on their title rivals.