Another big match, another goal from Mario Mandzukic. The forward’s 35th-minute header was enough to seal a significant win for Juventus over Roma, who were dominated by the home side in the first half and kept at arm’s length in the second. The Bianconeri confirmed their place as winter champions with two matches still to play until the half-way stage of the season. Atalanta await on Boxing Day.
Mandzukic header the difference in narrow win over Roma
APPLAUSE FOR MARCHISIO
Before the game, our former midfielder Claudio Marchisio was given a warm reception by all the Juventus supporters in attendance at Allianz Stadium. With fans then focusing their attention on the evening’s contest, things almost got off to a flying start for the Bianconeri. Following Paulo Dybala’s free-kick, Mario Mandzukic’s cross into the area almost found Cristiano Ronaldo, who would have had an open goal to aim at, but Kostas Manolas made a crucial intervention. Five minutes later the home side had an even more glaring opportunity, when Rodrigo Bentancur’s shot from distance was deflected to the feet of Alex Sandro. With plenty of time and space to finish, the Brazilian’s effort was saved at the near post by Robin Olsen. Sandro then forced the Roma keeper into another reaction save with a fierce near-post shot on 17 minutes.
MANDZUKIC REWARDS JUVE DOMINANCE
Juventus dominated proceedings in the first period, showing both physical and technical superiority, as well as a confident and aggressive attitude. Roma had to wait until 20 minutes to get their first proper opening, but Cengiz Under’s shot on the turn was easy for Wojciech Szczesny to handle. Shortly after that, Ronaldo fired a spectacular volley over the crossbar. It took until 35 minutes for the Bianconeri’s dominance to show where it matters: on the scoreboard. After Bentancur robbed the ball high up the pitch, Mattia De Sciglio sent an in-swinging cross from the right that Mandzukic met in trademark fashion, beating Davide Santon to the ball at the far post and heading down into the goal.
CHANCES TO EXTEND THE LEAD
Eusebio Di Francesco tried to swing the tide in Roma’s favour, sending on Justin Kluivert for Alessandro Florenzi after the interval, but Juventus remained the more threatening side. Two of the best chances fell to Ronaldo. On 58 minutes, Dybala whipped a flat cross in for the Portuguese forward, whose close-range header looked destined for the net, only for Olsen to produce an excellent block. From the resulting corner, Ronaldo volleyed straight at the Roma goalkeeper with his left-foot and was then thwarted as he tried to slot home the rebound.
With the match having become a scrappier affair in the later stages, Roma managed to exert some pressure of their own, though without troubling our man between the sticks. Massimiliano Allegri sent on Douglas Costa to provide more impetus in attack and it was a move that almost paid dividends. It looked as if the Brazilian had put the match to bed, finishing from close range after a splendid assist from Ronaldo. However, the goal was ruled out due to a foul on Nicolo Zaniolo which was spotted in the build-up by the VAR. The decision did not prove crucial as Juventus secured all three points, meaning the virtual prize of ‘winter champions’ is safely wrapped up under the Christmas tree.
JUVENTUS 1-0 ROMA (HT: 1-0)
SCORER: Mandzukic 35.
Szczesny; De Sciglio, Bonucci, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Bentancur, Pjanic (Emre Can 70), Matuidi; Dybala (Douglas Costa 80); Mandzukic, Ronaldo.
Subs not used: Perin, Pinsoglio, Benatia, Spinazzola, Rugani, Khedira, Bernardeschi, Kean.
Olsen; Santon, Manolas, Fazio, Kolarov; Cristante, Nzonzi (Dzeko 79); Florenzi (Kluivert 46), Zaniolo, Under (Perotti 71); Schick.
Subs not used: Fuzato, Mirante, Karsdorp, Juan Jesus, Pellegrini, Marcano, Pastore.
Coach: Di Francesco.
ASSISTANTS: Tegoni, Vuoto.
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Maresca.
VAR: Giacomelli, Lo Cicero.
YELLOW CARDS: Nzonzi 40, Schick 81, Zaniolo 90+5.