Juventus hoped for a comfortable win over struggling Sampdoria to bolster their Serie A title charge when they visited the Blucerchiati on Wednesday. Writing the script in this direction was goals in the first half by the strike arsenal of Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala, whose goals either side of a Sampdoria response, was enough to send the Italian giants back to the top of Serie A with a 2-1 win at Stadio Luigi Ferraris.
Brazilian defender Alex Sandro had a hand in both goals for Juventus; a thumping header from Ronaldo after a spectacular leap and a brilliant volley by Dybala, with the Turin giants pulling three points clear of Inter, who face Genoa on Saturday, can reclaim first-place going into the mid-season break, but this night belonged to Juve.
Gianluigi Buffon could not a clean sheet, but the veteran goalkeeper matched Paolo Maldini’s all-time record of 647 Serie A appearances, and a 479th outing in the division for the Old Lady meant he broke Alessandro Del Piero’s top-flight mark for the Bianconeri. In Juve’s final league game before a near three-week interval, Maurizio Sarri secured his 100th Serie A victory as a coach in what was just his 169th match.
No coach has reached that mark in fewer games in Italy’s top flight, so far this Century, with Sarri selecting a front three again before the breakthrough arrived in the 19th minute; Alex Sandro’s out-swinging delivery from the left reaching Dybala on the right side of the penalty area. The hosts’ leveller came after 35 minutes when Gianluca Caprari drilled home from close to the penalty spot after Alex Sandro gave away the ball to Gaston Ramirez on the hosts’ right.
Ronaldo restored Juventus’ lead in the 45th minute, rising majestically at the far post to power home another Alex Sandro cross, the Brazilian involved in a third goal of the half. Ronaldo was then denied what looked like a certain third Juve goal early in the second half when Blaise Matuidi inexplicably stepped in front of the talisman to meet a Dybala cross, delivering a clumsy finish to go with it, much to Ronaldo displeasure.
If anyone was a spare part in the Juventus side, it was Higuain, so it made sense for Sarri to replace him with Aaron Ramsey midway through the second half, fortifying the midfield. Ronaldo was thwarted late on by an offside flag and then shot a whisker wide, while Sampdoria had Caprari sent off at the death for a second infringement.
Records, goals as Juve make merry – what does it mean?
Even without the records for Buffon and Sarri, this would have been a good night for Juventus. The disappointment of losing at Lazio the last time out in a league assignment was replaced by the satisfaction that comes from imposing such control as they managed over Sampdoria for long stretches.
The consolation for Juve’s 16th-placed opponents on the night was that they did create chances, however, putting them away proved difficult. Finding a finisher may be a priority in the January transfer market from here on out.
Juventus may have wrapped up their pre-Christmas Serie A fixtures, but they have the Italian Supercoppa this Sunday when they play Lazio in Saudi Arabia. Sampdoria are done for the year, back in action against Milan on January 6.