The first match after an international break is often tricky for big teams, with half of their squads shipping off around the world while a smaller team can count on all but two or three players having time to heal up and prepare. Combined with a Juventus injury list that includes two left (wing)backs and three central defenders, and looking ahead to a crucial Champions League game midweek, facing a tricky team like Lazio away could have easily meant dropped points for Juventus.
Lazio have been something of a revelation this year, with Stefano Pioli guiding a reinforced squad towards the European places. On Saturday evening the Biancocelesti came out of the blocks with the intention of keeping the ball and putting pressure on Juventus in midfield, but as the game wore Juventus' talent made the difference.
It was a resilient performance from Juventus, who comfortably withstood early Lazio pressure until the 24th minute when Paul Pogba grabbed the first goal of the game. The wind seemed to leave Lazio's sails when they conceded, coming as it did off the counter following a Lazio free kick. Two second-half goals wrapped up the points for Juventus, and the game finished with the Old Lady taking her foot off the gas with more than one eye on Malmö.
Massimiliano Allegri's new 4-3-1-2 formation continues it's winning start, with the Turin side now recording three wins since changing formations. Roberto Pereyra and Carlos Tévez were again fundamental in transitioning from defense to attack, with the Argentines always ready to pick up the ball and run at defenders.
And then there is Paul Pogba. What else is there to say about the young Frenchman? At times it seems like every game he's getting better, polishing his decision making and becoming more integral to his side's play. Today he scored two goals and nearly added a fantastic third, dominated the 1-on-1 battles with the ball at his feet, and was constantly running beyond his strikers.
It was very much a case of job well done for Juventus in Rome, starting a critical set of games on the right foot. All departments of the team functioned well, and the only major worry looking ahead is the left back situation, with Padoin now suspended after picking up a red card. But that won't keep him out of Wednesday's match, which now looms massively on the horizon.
Lazio started on the front foot, passing patiently amongst themselves but rarely troubling the Juventus back line. There were early signs that the home side would struggle to keep Juventus contained on the break, with Roberto Pereyra twice brought down as he threatened to race away on the counter. Andrea Pirlo again struggled to impose himself on the match early on, with one poor giveaway nearly putting Lazio in until Leonardo Bonucci was able to clean up.
Candreva was Lazio's most consistent threat, usually stationed on the right of a front three and often enjoying the 1-on-1 matchup with Padoin. The Lazio fullbacks were fairly aggressive in their movement to support the wide forwards but this aggressive positioning left them vulnerable, with Marchisio and the fullbacks quick to flick balls over the initial pressure and start dangerous counters.
It was a move just like this that secured the first goal of the game. A Lazio free kick was hit into the box, where it was cleared to Simone Padoin. The utility man found an excellent ball down the flank to set Tévez free, who in turn cut inside to put the ball on a plate for Pogba.
Lazio looked a bit stunned at how easily they were being cut apart on the counter, and backed off somewhat after conceding. Pogba nearly grabbed a second with a spectacular curling effort off the woodwork following good work from Marchisio who intercepted the ball high up the pitch.
Candreva continued as Lazio's best attacking outlet, firing in crosses and earning Padoin's first yellow for handball as the defender struggled to close him down. The Juventus defense generally handled the aerial threat well, however in the 39th minute Keita Baldé was able to get between Lichtsteiner and Bonucci but fired high under pressure.
The second half continued to be fairly even, with Lazio trying to get back into the game but struggling to get through a strong Juventus midfield and defense. Juventus was a constant threat when there was space to attack, and in the 55th minute Carlos Tévez grabbed the second goal of the night. In a move similar to the first goal, Lichtsteiner played a ball up the flank that cut out the Lazio fullback and put Marchisio through. The Italian midfielder knocked the ball past Lorik Cana and cut it back for Tévez who finished clinically at the near post.
The 2-0 signaled changes for Lazio, as Felipe Anderson and Filip Đorđević came on for Keita Balde and the ineffective Miroslav Klose. Candreva continued to test the Juventus defense, with a long-range effort well saved by Buffon. Soon after it was time for a Juventus change, with Álvaro Morata coming on for Fernando Llorente. Neither Spanish striker would take much to remember from the game, but soon after Morata's introduction Pogba would grab his second, Juventus' third.
Pirlo was given acres of space as Lazio recovered from another Juventus counter, and the veteran fired the ball into Pereyra who elegantly touched the ball through for Pogba. Through on goal the 21-year old made no mistake, feinting a right-footed shot before calmly slotting home with his left.
Lazio continued to attack, with substitute Felipe Anderson threatening down Juventus' right side and luring Leonardo Bonucci into a yellow card. Soon the bad news of the night came for Juventus, as Padoin was again caught 1-on-1 against Candreva. With Pogba far ahead of the play, the ex-Juve winger knocked the ball past Padoin and drew the foul, resulting in a second yellow and sending-off. Federico Mattiello was brought on to fill the gap, with Roberto Pereyra making way.
Juventus continued to create chances, with Federico Mattiello nearly getting his first Serie A goal when put through by Pogba only to see Marchetti save. In the last 10 minutes Juventus was happy to see out the result, while Lazio created a couple of chances either through recovering the ball high up the field or via Candreva's shooting from distance.
A 3-0 scoreline is a fair reflection on Juventus' performance, which controlled the match despite creating fewer shots and often leaving Lazio time to circulate the ball. The result always seemed in control, and with a vital Champions League trip coming up Allegri and the squad will be happy to get out of Rome with the three points. Looking ahead the defensive worries continue, with Simone Padoin sent off, but with no further injuries and a clean sheet Juventus can count this as a job well done.
Buffon: 6 The veteran had a few saves to make, with Antonio Candreva happy to shoot from any distance. Left a couple of dangerous rebounds, and his distribution was erratic at times, but 0 goals conceded tells the story.
Lichtsteiner: 6.5 The right-back delivered his standard performance, up and down the flank and looking to combine with those around him. Could have done better when he got into attacking positions, and was caught out by Keita's run in the first half.
Bonucci: 6.5 Generally dominant when called on in the air, Bonucci was also slightly at fault for Keita's chance but otherwise was rarely troubled.
Chiellini: 7 A classic Chiellini performance, with the hardman keeping Miro Klose well under wraps. Winning everything in the air and ready to sweep up for those around him, a leader's performance from the center back.
Padoin: 5 Contributed to the first goal, but was often isolated against Candreva in a battle he was never likely to win. Picked up two yellow cards stopping dangerous passages of play.
Marchisio: 6 Another all-action performance from the man who has been one of Juve's best performers this season. Always eager to help out his defense and ready start the counter.
Pirlo: 5.5 Another bland performance from Pirlo, who despite having a role in the third goal is far from his best form. Hopefully he can contribute more in the matches to come, before awkward questions start coming up.
Pogba: 7.5 A fantastic performance from the Frenchman in attack, bagging two goals and nearly a classy hat trick. Left something to be desired on the back foot however, as he frequently left Padoin alone.
Pereyra: 6.5 The Argentine midfielder continued his great start to life in black-and-white, full of pace and tricks in attack and always willing to put in a shift. Played a wonderful flick to put Pogba through for the third.
Llorente: 5.5 The big Spaniard played a role up top, but was unable to contribute much other than a few knock-downs. Well-handled by the Lazio defense, and without much aerial service, Llorente will have better days.
Tévez: 7.5 Another great day in the saddle for El Apache. Tévez was always available for his midfielders, and constantly threatening the Lazio backline, and well worth his goal and assist.
Vidal: 5.5 Brought on for Pirlo to shore up the midfield after the sending off, Vidal gave his typical box-to-box performance.
Morata: 5.5 Brought on for Llorente the younger Spaniard found it similarly difficult, with nothing quite coming off tonight.
Mattiello: 5.5 Another few minutes at left back for the youngster, who had a good chance to open his Serie A account but saw a powerful shot saved by Marchetti.
Allegri: 6.5 With a long injury list, the international break, and the transition from 3-5-2 to 4-3-1-2, there would have been plenty of reasons for Juventus to struggle in this game. But Allegri's changes have worked, bringing a new spark to the attack without harming the defense. With Paul Pogba continuing his explosive growth, it will be a confident side on the plane to Sweden.
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