Juventus were forced to work very hard for a 12th consecutive victory, as Arturo Vidal’s brace and a Paul Pogba curler beat Sampdoria 4-2.
The Bianconeri rested Andrea Pirlo and Leonardo Bonucci ahead of Tuesday’s Coppa Italia quarter-final against Roma. Sinisa Mihajlovic’s Samp were back on track with a 3-0 win over Udinese and welcomed Pedro Obiang back from his ban, though Nenad Krsticic and Roberto Soriano were suspended.
It was raining heavily in Turin and Kwadwo Asamoah fired straight at Junior Da Costa within 120 seconds. Paul Pogba’s delightful first touch helped set up Giorgio Chiellini just inside the box, but Fernando Llorente and then Shkodran Mustafi got in the way to charge it down.
Carlos Tevez fired wide of the near post after barging past two defenders, Pogba curled a free kick well over, but the pressure eventually paid off. It was a sensationally well-worked team effort. Pogba prodded a through ball and Arturo Vidal sprung the offside trap to flick his finish past Da Costa with the outside of the boot.
Moments later Sampdoria tried to fight back, but Manolo Gabbiadini’s strike curled wide and Daniele Gastaldello nodded over at the back post from a corner.
Asamoah’s snapshot was deflected out for a corner and from that set play Fernando Llorente was allowed a towering header under the bar.
The Blucerchiati were 2-0 down, but certainly not out, as from a corner Gabbiadini’s effort was charged down and it fell to Mustafi, who forced Gigi Buffon to stick out a foot and parry. However, at the other end Vidal pulled back from the by-line for Tevez, whose powerful sliding finish was kept out by a combination of Da Costa and the upright.
Chiellini was booked for tripping Gabbiadini and will be suspended for next week’s trip to Lazio, but the Samp striker turned the resulting free kick off target.
The Blucerchiati did not give in and were back in the match thanks to an Andrea Barzagli own goal. He came sliding in to intercept a Gabbiadini angled drive from a corner, but only succeeded in deflecting it past Buffon.
The enthusiasm didn’t last long, as Vasco Regini lightly clipped Vidal’s heel for a penalty after Claudio Marchisio won back possession. The Chilean got back up to convert with confidence, smashing his spot-kick under the bar.
After the restart Sampdoria introduced Renan and Buffon had to smother a powerful Gabbiadini free kick. They came extremely close to a second goal on the hour mark, as Lorenzo De Silvestri’s free header into the ground took a deflection off Buffon’s knee from six yards to prevent a certain goal.
Moments later Llorente had the chance to finish Sampdoria off, but on the counter-attack from a long Vidal ball he drilled wide with only Da Costa to beat.
Mihajlovic’s men would not give up and got it back to 3-2. Buffon performed another excellent reaction save on Regini’s header from a corner, but could do nothing on Gabbiadini’s follow-up from point-blank range. The visitors had threatened repeatedly from these set plays and eventually made them count to turn up the pressure in Turin.
Pogba blasted a rocket wide and Da Costa smothered Asamoah’s effort, but Gabbiadini came incredibly close to 3-3 on 73 minutes when his screamer from distance dipped over Buffon to smack against the crossbar.
However, Pogba put the points beyond reach with a magnificent solo strike from 20 metres, curling with his right foot into the far top corner to leave Da Costa with no chance.
The 20-year-old French midfielder almost completed his brace with an angled drive that skimmed the back post from Fabio Quagliarella’s assist.