Juventus signed off a triumphant calendar year in Serie A on an appropriate note by getting back to winning ways with this evening’s 3-1 success over Cagliari, a victory which guarantees their supremacy heading into 2015.
Following back-to-back league draws against Fiorentina and Sampdoria, the Bianconeri answered Massimiliano Allegri’s pre-match plea by turning in a convincing performance in Sardinia, where a three-goal advantage was established with 50 minutes elapsed.
Carlos Tevez opened the scoring with just 180 seconds on the clock, sweeping over the line following a scramble in the box. The lead was doubled 12 minutes later when Arturo Vidal curled home a fine first-time strike from 25 yards, with Fernando Llorente putting the icing on the cake five minutes into the second half courtesy of a decent effort on the turn.
The hosts’ never-say-die attitude was rewarded when Luca Rossettini headed Andrea Cossu’s set-piece beyond Gigi Buffon midway through the second half, but the Bianconeri held on to claim a deserved three points.
A devastating start to the encounter saw the visitors, featuring three changes from Sunday’s draw with Sampdoria, grab the lead after just three minutes. This could have in fact come even earlier when Llorente had a fine header pushed clear, but from the resulting corner, the visitors made their early pressure count, Tevez on hand to sweep home following a goalmouth
Renowned for their cavalier style under attack-minded coach Zdenek Zeman, Cagliari refused to settle for damage limitation and instead ventured forward in search of an instant reply. It almost arrived, but Buffon remained alert to Albin Ekdal’s header, sprawling to his left to prevent the former Juventus midfielder from drawing his team level on eight minutes.
Seven minutes later, the visitors doubled their lead. There seemed to be little danger on when a cleared cross dropped to the feet of Vidal 25 yards from goal, but the Chilean had other ideas, stroking home a magnificent strike that flew past the motionless Alessio Cragno.
Cagliari emerged for the second period with renewed vigour and immediately displayed their intent within one minute of the restart when Ekdal pulled the trigger from range, seeing his shot whistle past the post after taking a light deflection.
Yet the Bianconeri had other ideas and a precise Andrea Pirlo pass into the feet of Llorente enabled the Spaniard to spin his marker before squeezing the ball beyond Cragno for the visitors’ third on 50 minutes.
To their credit, Cagliari refused to give up and pulled one back on 65 minutes when Luca Rossettini rose highest in the box to connect with Cossu’s precise set-piece delivery, planting an unstoppable header into the top corner that left Buffon with no chance.
With Alvaro Morata providing fresh legs up front in place of Llorente, Juventus continued to move forward and looked to put the game to bed in the closing stages.
The chance came when a magnificent Pirlo pass picked out the run of Stephan Lichtsteiner who duly squared for Roberto Pereyra, only for the midfielder’s strike to take a deflection at the last possible moment and skid just past the post.
Next to try his luck was substitute Morata but, after being sent clear by Vidal’s fine raking pass from deep, the 22-year-old forward lifted his shot wide of the target under pressure from the onrushing Cragno.
A late flurry from Cagliari threatened to reduce the deficit even further, but Allegri’s men showed the required maturity to dig deep and see out an important three points.
A good night at the office was made even better by the lack of bookings picked up by the Bianconeri, who will subsequently be unburdened by suspensions for their final game of 2014 - Monday’s Super Cup final against Napoli in Qatar.