Paulo Dybala proved he is back with two late goals – scored with his weaker right foot – as Juventus struggled to beat Verona 3-1.
Napoli had already secured the status of Winter Champions as leaders at the half-way stage of the season, but Juve open up a six-point gap from the chasing pack, as Inter, Roma and Lazio all failed to win today. Gigi Buffon, Miralem Pjanic, Mattia De Sciglio, Juan Cuadrado and Benedikt Howedes missed out, but Paulo Dybala returned after three Serie A rounds on the bench in a new trequartista role. Hellas had to do without Alessio Cerci, Mohamed Fares, Samuel Souprayen, Matteo Bianchetti and Mattia Zaccagni, but started Juventus-owned teenage striker Moise Kean.
Hellas were unbeaten in their last three home games against Juventus with one win and two draws. The most recent Bianconeri victory here was 1-0 in April 2007, but that was in Serie B.
Medhi Benatia’s header was over the bar from a corner and Juve broke through within six minutes. Gonzalo Higuain’s strike cannoned off the upright and into the path of Blaise Matuidi who, despite shinning the shot, got it into the far bottom corner.
That goal set a new all-time Serie A record, as for the 23rd away game in a row, Juventus found the back of the net. The previous record also belonged to Juve of 22 from 2013 to 2014.
Nicolas got down to beat away another Higuain solo effort, then Pipita’s free kick hit the side-netting, but half the crowd thought it had gone in.
Martin Caceres had a chance against his old club, but the finish was charged down by Giorgio Chiellini from 11 yards. Daniele Verde also curled a dangerous effort inches past the far top corner.
Nicolas performed a desperate reaction save on Higuain, who got on the end of Alex Sandro’s pull-back only to fire straight at the goalkeeper from point-blank range.
Federico Bernardeschi replaced Rodrigo Bentancur for the second half in a return to the 4-2-3-1 formation. Hellas remained aggressive and Kean nutmegged Giorgio Chiellini, but the defender scrambled back to make up for it with a crucial block.
Bernardeschi’s effort was smothered at the near post after a give-and-go with Higuain, but Verona got their equaliser with a former Juve player.
Caceres pounced on a Benatia error and hit a right-foot scorcher from 20 metres out, as the fact he slipped while taking it perhaps gave the ball an extra spin to go past Wojciech Szczesny.
Moments later, Caceres put an inspired through ball to release Kean, but Benatia and Chiellini scrambled back to eventually cut him off.
Chiellini nodded just wide from the corner, but Stephan Lichtsteiner bravely dived in to the challenge with Caceres at the by-line to pull back and Dybala slid the finish in with his weaker right foot from 10 yards. Lichtsteiner was injured in that move and came off for Andrea Barzagli.
La Joya was well and truly back, as he completed his brace soon after. This was more of a trademark Dybala goal, as he gathered in midfield, surged forward dribbling between four players and smashed the precise angled drive into the far bottom corner, again with his right foot to anticipate the goalkeeper from 12 yards.
Incredibly, Dybala had only ever scored two right-foot goals in his entire Serie A career, but got two in five minutes.
It was nearly a hat-trick, his free kick dipping viciously for Nicolas to acrobatically palm out from under the bar.
Bernardeschi’s set play curled all the way in, but Benatia and Higuain were both offside and interfering with play. The referee suffered a calf injury in the final minute and was able to complete the game after treatment.