VAR was the protagonist even more than Cristiano Ronaldo’s brace, as Juventus beat Sampdoria 2-1 with a late Riccardo Saponara strike disallowed.
The Bianconeri have dropped points only twice in the league all season, drawing at home with Genoa and 2-2 with Atalanta on Boxing Day, so set a new all-time record of 53 points by the midway stage.
Rodrigo Bentancur was sent off in Bergamo and therefore suspended, but Cristiano Ronaldo and Miralem Pjanic returned to the starting XI, while Leonardo Bonucci was rested. Juan Cuadrado, Joao Cancelo and Andrea Barzagli were still injured, then Wojciech Szczesny pulled out in the warm-up, making way for Mattia Perin. Samp lost Joachim Andersen to a ban, with Bartosz Bereszynski and Edgar Barreto side-lined, but Fabio Quagliarella had scored in each of his last eight Serie A appearances.
It took barely 120 seconds for Juventus to break through, as Cristiano Ronaldo gathered a Paulo Dybala cross-field pass on the edge of the box, cut inside and curled a low right-foot finish into the far bottom corner. Emil Audero, who is on loan from Juve, got down very late and was perhaps affected by the bright sunlight.
Dennis Praet drilled just wide, as did Dybala on a Giorgio Chiellini assist, but Samp had a big chance when an in-swinging Gianluca Caprari corner was cleared off the line by Alex Sandro.
However, that incident was viewed again on VAR and a penalty awarded for Emre Can’s handling offence, mis-timing his jump to connect with his elbow. Quagliarella stepped up and converted with power, sending Perin the wrong way to find the net for the ninth Serie A round in a row. The last player to achieve that run was David Trezeguet for Juve in 2005.
The game suddenly changed, as Samp poured forward with several chances off target and a free kick deflected into the arms of Perin from close range.
Right on the stroke of half-time, Juve threatened with Audero parrying a Dybala snapshot and then Mario Mandzukic unable to reach a Cristiano Ronaldo cross to the back post.
The Blucerchiati continued to threaten, Perin smothering a Caprari effort on the counter, but Audero got down for a sensational one-handed save to push Blaise Matuidi’s half-volley round the far post.
Audero was again called into action, flying to palm a Cristiano Ronaldo screamer on to the crossbar on the hour mark. Moments later, Ronaldo’s header from a Matuidi cross seemed to be on target, but was deflected over off Omar Colley’s back.
The turning point was again from the penalty spot, as this time Alex Ferrari was judged to have handled when a corner was nodded on to his arm. Viewing it again on VAR and confirming his decision, although the arm seemed to be flush with the torso, the referee blew the whistle for Cristiano Ronaldo to beat Audero.
Quagliarella was the last to give in, his chest and shot on the turn wide, then an acrobatic volley almost back-heeled just off target.
Deep into stoppages, Perin’s poor clearance sparked a Samp attack and substitute Riccardo Saponara curled a stunner into the far top corner. However, the VAR review showed Gregoire Defrel got the touch rather than Alex Sandro on the assist, meaning Saponara was in an offside position and the goal was disallowed.
Juventus have not conceded more than one goal in a Serie A home fixture since October 2017 and that run remains intact.
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