Juventus made good on its game in hand and now has some breathing room ahead of Napoli in its quest for a seventh straight league title.
Juventus handed themselves some breathing room at the top of Serie A on Wednesday evening, with a comfortable 2-0 victory over ten man Atalanta. Gonzalo Higuain scored the only goal of the first half, before Blaise Matuidi’s 80th minute effort sealed the win at the Allianz Stadium.
The home side came into the match having lost only one league game in Turin in their last 50 home games, knowing that a win would put a tidy four point gap between them and Napoli in their hunt for a seventh successive Scudetto trophy. Five changes from their weekend victory over Udinese saw a system reshuffle from Max Allegri in his hunt for the three points.
Meanwhile, Atalanta knew that an unlikely win against the Bianconeri would elevate them into seventh in Serie A, and keep them on the heels of AC Milan in the hunt for Europa League football next season. Much like their opponents, the visitors also rung in the changes to their starting lineup with five new faces coming in.
The game opened up early on with Juventus asking questions of the Atalanta defense in the first ten minutes. The away side, well aware of the Old Lady’s incredible fire power, were equal to it, though – setting up well defensively.
After 17 minutes Blaise Matuidi came close to opening the scoring. Getting onto the end of a loose ball from Miralem Pjanic’s corner, the Frenchman found himself in acres of space as he opened up his body for the half volley – only for an Atlanta defender to block the effort from close range.
It was just before the half hour mark when Juve opened the scoring. A lightning fast counter attack from Douglas Costa – who had been causing all sorts of problems up until this point – played in Gonzalo Higuain for a one on one with the keeper. The Argentinian never looked like missing, and coolly slotted home for an easy goal to make it 1-0.
Paulo Dybala almost doubled the lead five minutes from halftime. Played in by Higuain, the 24-year-old went to put the ball between the keeper’s legs, but Etrit Berisha pushed it wide. Dybala was eventually pulled back for offside.
Higuain came frightfully close to earning his brace on 42 minutes. Beating his marker outside the box with a smart dragback, the striker opened up his body for a curling effort from around 20 yards out. Losing his footing and slipping over, Higuain put the ball only inches wide of the right post.
The second half kicked off very similarly to how the first ended: with Juventus on top. Two minutes in and Dybala pulled off a good effort from outside the box, only to be met comfortably by the hands of Berisha.
However, literally one minute later Gianluca Mancini received Atalanta’s best opportunity of the game. Climbing high to meet an in-swinging corner with his head, Gianluigi Buffon was well and truly beaten, but Mancini’s effort sailed just wide of the mark.
The chances continued to come for Juventus, and Douglas Costa really should’ve made it 2-0 on 64 minutes. The Brazilian once again raced away from the lagging Atalanta defense at an angle with the keeper. Aiming for the far corner, his driven effort just clipped the post and ran wide.
The 78th minute saw things become a lot worse for Atalanta when Mancini received his marching orders. An uncharacteristic forward run from Giorgio Chiellini came to a sudden halt when met by the outstretched leg of the Atalanta center back. The referee opted to hand the defender his second yellow of the match, and all but seal Juve’s three points.
And it was moments later that Juventus took immediate advantage of the extra man. A driven ball into the box from Dybala came to Higuain, who laid up an open Matuidi. The Frenchman made no mistake with his first time effort, finding the far corner.