Juventus pulled within one point of Napoli at the top of Serie A with the win.

By 90Min
January 22, 2018

Juventus labored to a 1-0 victory over plucky Genoa as a well taken strike by Douglas Costa in the first half closed the gap to one point on leaders Napoli at the Serie A summit. 

Both sides headed into this league encounter at Juve's Allianz Stadium in encouraging form. The home side were undefeated in their last six, having won five and drawing the other. Although lying in 15th, Genoa were on a decent run themselves having won three of their last six and they hadn't conceded in their last four Serie A games. Nevertheless, the 2-0 Coppa Italia defeat to Juventus just before Christmas would still be fresh in Il Grifone's minds. 

Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri made three changes to the side that defeated Cagliari 1-0 in their last league outing with Stephan Lichtsteiner, on loan Douglas Costa and Mario Mandzukic all starting for La Vecchia Signora.

For the visitors, Davide Ballardini made four changes from the side that defeated Sassuolo by the same scoreline with Amando Izzo, on loan Adel Taarabt, Aleandro Rosi and Stephane Omenonga all starting for Genoa. 

In front of a lively crowd the game kicked off and Juventus quickly asserted their authority by dominating possession as Genoa sat back, tried to contain by absorbing the pressure and defending in numbers. Through the opening exchanges Juve were exposing the visitors down both flanks with good movement by Douglas Costa, but the half chances were not converted.  

The first real opportunity was from a free kick on the edge of the visitor's penalty area for Juventus after Gonzalo Higuain had been fouled. Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic stepped up and curled the ball sublimely over the wall, but goalkeeper Mattia Perin pushed comfortably away to safety.  

Genoa were proving a tough nut to crack and remained disciplined in their collective defending, they were even showing growing confidence in their own possession of the ball. Then in the 16th minute order was restored, Mario Mandzukic slipped the ball towards the near post after Douglas Costa's initial blocked challenge. Costa's perfectly timed run allowed him to place the ball first time past the despairing dive of Perin, to give Juve the lead - It was the Brazilian striker's second goal of the season. 

The home side continued to press high up the pitch to force mistakes from Genoa's defense. Pjanic was orchestrating Juventus' good play through incisive passing or his quality delivery from set pieces as Genoa's attacking threat was now redundant. In fact, Wojciech Szczesny was a bystander in Juventus' goal, needing to retain his powers of concentration when dealing with the occasional back pass from his own defenders. 

For all Juve's dominance and fluid build up play the 1-0 scoreline at half time would have frustrated Allegri and the home supporters, although Genoa should be given credit for their stubborn defending. 

The second half started very much in the pattern of the first, Juve on the front foot with the visitors forced backwards, although a change to a 4-3-2-1 formation by Ballardini gave them a 'slightly' more attacking threat.  At times, it just seemed too comfortable for the home side which allowed for some complacency in their play. 

Juventus failed to really trouble Perin and needed that second goal to put the game to bed as their play became a little disjointed and labored as the second half progressed. Naturally, their pressing intensity subsided as they tired and Genoa managed to get more of a foothold in to the match, but they rarely troubled Szczesny. 

Nevertheless, the home supporters angst grew in a cauldron of noise as Juve began to sit back, defend and grind out the win in the closing stages, but ultimatelyBianconeri did enough and held on for the victory. 

On Saturday, Juventus will be hoping to extend their unbeaten 20 game run where they are away to Chievo. For Genoa, they can look forward to the visit of Udinese on Sunday afternoon where a precious victory and three points will pull them further away from the bottom three in their fight for Serie A survival.

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