SERIE A MATCH REPORT

Serie A Week 17 - 17 Dec 2016 (19.45 UK)
Juventus 1 - 0 Roma
Higuain 14 (J)
Juventus Stadium

Gonzalo Higuain’s sensational solo effort proved enough for Juventus to beat Roma 1-0 and go seven points clear at the top of the table.

History is not kind to the Giallorossi in this fixture, losing their last six Serie A trips to Turin. Juventus also celebrated their 25th consecutive Serie A home victory, matching the all-time League record also set by the Old Lady from August 2013 to December 2014.

There were only four points separating the top two teams going into the Juventus Stadium in an early Scudetto showdown. Mohamed Salah and Bruno Peres weren’t fit to start with Francesco Totti, Leandro Paredes and Alessandro Florenzi injured, so Gerson was given a surprise start. The hosts missed Leonardo Bonucci and Dani Alves.

It was a physical start, as within 30 seconds Kostas Manolas had barged Mario Mandzukic – no shrinking violet himself – over the advertising boards.

Wojciech Szczesny neutralised a Gonzalo Higuain effort after good work from Mandzukic down the right. Pipita opened the scoring with a solo effort, as he shrugged off Daniele De Rossi – who had just been booked – got away from a Manolas challenge too and smashed the left-foot finish into the near top corner.

Radja Nainggolan drilled on to the side-netting and Szczesny’s save on Higuain from a corner was irrelevant, as he was offside. Manolas wasted a golden opportunity, as a corner ricocheted around the six-yard box and the defender fired straight at Stephan Lichtsteiner.

Inevitably, Luciano Spalletti had to remove Gerson – who was also on a yellow card – to introduce Salah in the second half. Pjanic went off early after a knock to the hip, so Juan Cuadrado came on for a 4-3-3 formation.

Mandzukic had penalty appeals, but he simply crossed paths with Federico Fazio and they tripped each other. Daniele Rugani twice performed crucial interceptions to stop Edin Dzeko going clear and Barzagli made his comeback after a rapid recovery from his dislocated shoulder, moving to 3-5-2.

Szczesny got down for a great reaction save on Stefano Sturaro, set up by Mandzukic, but Roma lost De Rossi to a calf problem and Nainggolan was visibly limping.

Mandzukic’s work-rate was remarkable, getting back constantly to tackle Diego Perotti, but the Giallorossi had a great chance from a corner when Fazio couldn’t complete the turn from three yards out.

Moments later Salah squirmed between defenders to roll across for Perotti, who scuffed his weak finish straight at Gigi Buffon. Roma stepped up the pressure in the closing stages, partly because of Juve’s move to 3-5-2, as Manolas’ diving header was inches away from making contact with a deflected free kick at the back post.

Manolas also went off injured and Buffon fingertipped a Stephan El Shaarawy header out from under the bar. Szczesny was also decisive on Sturaro from close range.

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Juventus: Buffon; Lichtsteiner (Barzagli 68), Rugani, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Khedira, Marchisio, Sturaro; Pjanic (Cuadrado 51); Mandzukic, Higuain (Dybala 82)
Roma: Szczesny; Rudiger, Manolas (Bruno Peres 85), Fazio, Emerson Palmieri; De Rossi (El Shaarawy 72), Strootman; Gerson (Salah 46), Nainggolan, Perotti; Dzeko
Ref: Orsato