Juventus earned a very controversial victory at Cagliari, as Federico Bernardeschi scored when Leonardo Pavoletti was down and the hosts had strong penalty appeals.
The Bianconeri needed a victory to keep up the pace with leaders Napoli and break away even further from the chasing pack, as Inter drew and Roma lost. Max Allegri had to do without injured Gigi Buffon, Juan Cuadrado, Mattia De Sciglio and Benedikt Howedes, but gave Federico Bernardeschi a rare start. The Sardinians ended 2017 with a shock win away to Atalanta, but had Senna Miangue and Joao Pedro suspended.
Cagliari haven’t beaten Juventus since a 2-0 home victory in November 2009, a game in which Coach Diego Lopez started. However, Juve have dominated this fixture since, winning 12 of their last 15 meetings, the last three with a 9-0 aggregate score.
Paulo Dybala went very close to an opener after nine minutes, as his free kick dipped over the wall and bounced off the crossbar.
Juve rattled the woodwork for the second time, as a Bernardeschi curler from a tight angle hit the inside of the far post and ricocheted out again.
Cagliari replied, Leonardo Pavoletti nodding a Paolo Faragò cross not far off target, while Medhi Benatia put the ball in the net from a long Miralem Pjanic free kick, but only after he’d been flagged offside.
Wojciech Szczesny performed a stunning reaction save on Pavoletti’s header from a corner, even more importantly scrambling the loose ball away with one hand to prevent a tap-in.
Diego Farias stole the ball off Pjanic and burst forward, closed down with real difficulty in the box, then just before half-time there was another desperate Szczesny one-handed save to turn the Farias finish on to the upright from close range.
Pavoletti had another chance with his header within seconds of the restart, but there was very bad news for Juventus. Dybala suddenly pulled up mid-run to clutch the back of his right thigh and immediately asked to be substituted. He was in tears as he limped off, realising this could be a serious injury.
Bernardeschi was booked for a late and high tackle on Artur Ionita’s ankle, which was perhaps worthy of slightly more than a yellow card.
Substitute Douglas Costa curled just past the far top corner after a cheeky step-over, but Juve lost another player to injury, as Khedira was accidentally pole-axed in a collision with Szczesny.
Pjanic drilled wide from the edge of the box after a long passing move, but when Juventus did break the deadlock, it was in very controversial circumstances.
Pavoletti was down after he was caught in the face by a Benatia elbow and play continued while the crowd jeered, until Douglas Costa rolled across for Bernardeschi to tap in from six yards.
The Sardinians were even more furious soon after, as Bernardeschi seemed to charge down a Padoin cross-shot with his arm, but the referee waved away penalty appeals and did not consult the VAR himself after speaking to the officials in the booth via his earpiece. It was a contentious decision, as Bernardeschi had his arm raised and detached from the torso, while it was not from close range.