Defending champions Juventus climb to second spot in Serie A
Genoa (Italy), Jan 11 (IANS) Juventus jumped to the second spot with its ninth consecutive Serie A win with a 2-1 victory over Sampdoria at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris here.
The defending champions on Sunday evening reaped the rewards for their bright start to proceedings after 17 minutes when Paul Pogba took Leonardo Bonucci's ball out of the air before hitting a pinpoint drive into the bottom corner to set his team on their way.
Barely a minute after the break, the visitors were celebrating their second goal of the evening, Sami Khedira taking Paulo Dybala's wonderful through ball into his stride before slotting past Emiliano Viviano.
However, Antonio Cassano's 64th-minute strike made for a somewhat nervy final half hour to the match, in which Massimiliano Allegri's men held on for a crucial win.
With this win, Juventus took their points tally to 39 points from 19 games -- same as Inter Milan but ahead on goal difference. Inter Milan were removed from the top spot following a 0-1 loss to Sassuolo while Napoli demolished Frosinone 5-1 to become the leaders halfway through the season with 41 points.
Juventus opened the match with the confidence of a side that has won their last eight matches on the spin, pinging the passes around well in the opposition half and dominating possession (67 percent in the first quarter of an hour).
Their maiden attempt on target arrived after nine minutes, Pogba trying his luck from range, but he struck too centrally to trouble Viviano at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.
However, eight minutes later. Bonucci's lob located the Frenchman, who showed good agility to get the ball onto his left foot before volleying low and accurately inside Viviano's far post. The goal was his fifth of the season in all competitions and second at the Marassi following September's strike against Genoa.
Less than a minute prior, Hernanes had brought a decent save out of Viviano with an awkward, dipping shot, but, in general, opportunities would come somewhat at a premium during the remainder of the first half, despite Paulo Dybala doing his utmost to get the better of the Blucerchiati backline.
On 34 minutes, The Argentine sent a wicked free-kick across the box, forcing Viviano to push behind for one of Juve's seven corner kicks before the interval.
The hosts would have a couple of half-chances of their own, Fernando smashing his set-piece from the edge of the penalty area into the Bianconeri wall moments before Carlos Carbonero drove wide of the target, as Gianluigi Buffon entered the changing rooms at half-time having not had to make a single save.
Buffon’s opposite number, on the other hand, would be made to collect the ball from the back of his net after just a minute of the second period. Dybala showed the class and composure to split open Sampdoria's rearguard with a brilliant through ball into the feet of Khedira and the German international sent Viviano the wrong way with the sort of calm finish a forward would have been proud of.
Allegri's charges continued to hold the upper hand around the hour-mark, with both Pogba and Hernanes both driving whiskers wide before Viviano had to be alert to Dybala's dangerous drive from range.
Down the other end of the pitch, meanwhile, Eder was marginally off the mark with his header from Cassano's menacing cross.
In the 63rd minute, Alvaro Morata spurned a golden opportunity to increase his side's advantage as the Spaniard failed to direct Hernanes' accurate cross on target.
And Juventus would pay the price for their profligacy just a minute later, when Cassano continued his recent purple patch of form with a fine goal following good work down the right by Mattia Cassani.
At this point, the hosts had their tails up and very nearly levelled matters, as Fernando's effort shaved the post with Buffon beaten.
From looking very comfortable, the visitors had to stay on their toes to prevent Sampdoria from causing any further damage.
Vincenzo Montella's men were not giving up on their search for an equaliser, however, with Ervin Zukanovic nodding over from close-range and Buffon having to get his gloves to Fernando's injury-time effort as the match ended 2-1 in favour of Juventus.