Higuain double seals comeback win as Juve stay top
Juventus survived a scare on Saturday afternoon as a second half brace from Gonzalo Higuain saw them run out 3-1 winners against Atalanta in Bergamo.
Much of the pre-match build-up was dominated by the confirmed absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, whilst Atalanta were also without key players, as Duvan Zapata remained sidelined due to injury and Josip Ilicic served a suspension.
However, the hosts were immediately on the front foot, and had the chance to take the lead when Sami Khedira handled unnecessarily inside the penalty area. Musa Barrow stepped up, but saw his penalty thud against the crossbar and stay out.
An early let-off for the champions, yet they continued to be second best. No side has scored more goals in Serie A this season than Atalanta, and it was clear to see why as they put Barrow’s miss behind them and dominated for long periods with Mario Pasalic and Hans Hateboer both going close in the latter stages of the half.
Having reached the interval on level terms, it seemed that Juventus has been let off the hook, yet they did finally fall behind in the 56th minute. Again Barrow was involved, as he found space down the right hand side of the penalty box and clipped in an inviting cross for Robin Gosens to head home at the far post.
Juventus had started the campaign by dropping just four points in their opening twelve league games, but now they faced the prospect of a first defeat under Maurizio Sarri. They needed a response, and thanks to Higuain they found it.
Juan Cuadrado’s cross pinged around inside the box before falling at the feet of Higuain, who turned and shot in one movement, with his strike deflecting off Rafael Toloi and into the net. In that moment, the game had changed, and the momentum was firmly with Juventus.
Two key VAR decisions later, and it became clear that this was not going to be Atalanta’s day. The first of those came when Remo Freuler’s cross was blocked by the arm of Emre Can. VAR was consulted, but after a lengthy delay it was decided that as the ball had deflected off Can’s leg onto his arm there was not enough intent for a spot-kick to be awarded.
Almost immediately, Juventus made the most of their fortune to take the lead with eight minutes remaining. Paulo Dybala and Cuadrado combined down the right hand side, before the Colombian full back cut the ball back for Higuain to slot past Pierluigi Gollini. Once more VAR was used, but it judged that Cuadrado had just managed to stay onside in the build-up and the goal stood.
With two goals to his name, Higuain was full of confidence and he played his part in the third goal as well. His pass found Dybala in space, who cut inside onto his favoured left foot before firing his effort below the despairing dive of Gollini.
A cruel result for Atalanta who played well for much of the contest. Their third league loss of the season means that they sit sixth in the table, three points outside the top four.
Yet this was typical Juventus, producing a ruthless display of finishing in the closing stages to maintain their one point lead over Inter as they go in search of a ninth straight title.