AS Roma 1-2 Juventus
Now that is how to prove you are the top dogs in Serie A.
The arrival of the champions in the capital was supposed to see the hosts up their game against a team which had not won in their backyard since 2014.
Ten minutes in and the evidence was clear why the ‘old lady’ of Turin are bidding for a ninth successive Scudetto.
Highlights of the game
There were no major team news surprises with Merih Demiral keeping his place in the visitors’ starting line-up which meant teenager, former Ajax star Matthijs de Ligt, was on the bench for the sixth game in a row.
For Roma, the likes of Davide Santon, Davide Zappacosta, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Javier Pastore and Justin Kluivert were all still absent, although Bryan Cristante was deemed fit enough for a place on the bench.
Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri had described Paulo Fonseca’s hosts as ‘dangerous’ but this side has time and time again shown a habit for winning away from home when they need it the most in tricky encounters.
The champions also had the incentive from earlier when leaders Inter Milan were held at home by Atalanta.
The scene was set and, after just three minutes, Juventus had a dream start.
Paulo Dybala floated a free-kick to the back post and Aleksandar Kolarov lost sight of Demiral who turned the ball in with his shin.
After Roma had forced a couple of corners, Juve made them pay for another moment of hesitation.
Jordan Veretout gained possession but failed to notice Dybala sneak up on him and the midfielder could only pull back the diminutive Argentine.
The result was as predictable as it was emphatic as Cristiano Ronaldo sent goalkeeper Pau Lopez the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Ronaldo has constantly been a nightmare figure for Roma, scoring twice in their famous 7-1 defeat to Manchester United in 2007, then in both 2015-16 Champions League meetings when he was with Real Madrid.
The unfortunate Demiral had to leave the fray soon afterwards following an awkward landing, while Adrien Rabiot cleared a Lorenzo Pellegrini shot off the line, but that was as uncomfortable as it got for Juventus.
The bad luck was on the hosts’ side just before the break when Nicolo Zaniolo was brought down by substitute de Ligt and had to be stretchered off in tears with what appears to be suspected ligament injury.
There were nearly further Serie A highlights for the champions just before the break as Rabiot sparked a swift counter-attack and an angled drive from CR7 was beaten away by Lopez.
Roma have a generally fine home record in Serie A and, even in a surprise 2-0 defeat to Torino last weekend, had 31 shots on goal.
There seemed little chance of half of that total for the home side and, despite their best endeavours, they rarely threatened to pull one back until just past the hour mark.
Then Edin Dzeko hit the upright and, as play continued, Cengiz Under forced an incredible double save from Wojciech Szczesny at point-blank range.
The danger was not over and an instinctive Alex Sandro handball, spotted by VAR, ultimately led to a spot-kick which Diego Perotti converted to reduce the arrears.
Now the atmosphere inside the Stadio Olimpico was different, although Ronaldo gave a warning of the danger on the counter-attack by heading narrowly wide.
They also had a strike by Gonzalo Higuain, on for Dybala, disallowed for offside.
Back to the other end and Szczesny had to be alert to save a glancing header from Kolarov.
There was always a feeling Roma would create one more chance and, in stoppage time, a Dzeko effort was charged down by a superb De Ligt tackle and, as the ball sat up, Pellegrini could only fire the rebound over the bar.
That was that and Juventus had their first win in Roma since May 2014 when then boss Antonio Conte’s men required a 90th-minute strike from Pablo Osvaldo.
Now he’s in charge of their rivals for the title and, if reports are to be believed, soon to battle it out against each other in the transfer market too.
But this was a potentially significant day and Conte will know it.
Juve are back at the summit.
Demiral is the first Turkish player to score a goal for Juventus in Serie A.
Since the start of December, Ronaldo has scored nine goals in Serie A, more than any other player in the top-five European leagues during that period.
This was the sixth match in a row in which Ronaldo has found the net.
Juve began 2020 with a 4-0 hammering of Cagliari in which the superstar notched his first-ever Serie A hat-trick.
Only two Juventus players have scored at least 14 goals in the first 19 days of a Serie A championship for more than one season: 1) John Hansen – 1950/51, 1951/52 and 1952/53. 2) Ronaldo – 2018/19 and 2019/20.
These two coaches previously met when Fonseca’s Shakhtar Donetsk knocked Sarri’s Napoli out of the Champions League.
Roma go to Parma in the last 16 of the Coppa Italia on Thursday (January 16) and then travel to Genoa in Serie A next weekend.
Juventus host Udinese on Wednesday (January 15), also in the Coppa Italia, before welcoming Parma in the top flight next Sunday night.
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