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Juventus 1-0 Sassuolo: Paul Pogba at the rescue as Juve extend Serie A lead

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Paul Pogba scored with another beautiful long strike to help Juventus overcome a stubborn Sassuolo defence and extend their lead at the top of Serie A table to 11 (ELEVEN!!!) points.

Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

"Siamo noi, siamo noi! I campioni dell'Italia siamo noi..."

No, this time it wasn’t just in my head. Juventus’ tifosi at the stadium chanted this even from the first half with, presuming, Roma’s latest draw against Chievo — yes, Chievo! — still fresh in their minds. And they are right, aren’t they? Eleven points between the two clubs at the top of the table with 12 fixtures left and Roma playing another queen of draws at home next time out, namely Sampdoria. Sounds good. Jump on the bandwagon then!

Siamo noi, siamo noi! I campioni dell'Italia siamo noi!

It was more difficult than expected to get the three points against Eusebio Di Francesco’s side, though, even bearing in mind the result from the first leg when the two teams drew 1-1. Paul Pogba was the man who scored the goal in that match and he was at the post again to save the day for Juventus on Monday. All hail the new king, Paul! If it wasn’t for that ridiculous haircut of his ... seriously, somebody should tell him.

Addressing the new king matter, it is certainly distressing seeing Arturo Vidal playing football nowadays. Great work to start the action that lead to the goal, yes, but he has been far away from the normal self for too long and with Andrea Pirlo still out, things are not working brilliantly in midfield for Juventus.

Claudio Marchisio has his moments of foolishness; Roberto Pereyra is still doing all the little tricks and flicks with very little effect, while Pogba, despite his goal, has also been off form recently. Pretty much like the whole team — not registering any negative results, but still just off the ideal, steady course. And although it wasn’t actually heart-warming hearing Antonio Conte preaching how his Juventus would be 20 points clear now, there might be a tiny little bit of truth in there somewhere. No doubt many juventini would just kindly ask him to mind his own business, if it would not be too much to ask of him.

Marco Storari made his second Serie A appearance of the season as captain Gianluigi Buffon missed the game because of the flu, while Martin Caceres underwent a surgery to his ankle that probably, and most unfortunately, rules him out for the season. Buffon should be fit to face Dortmund next week — as the Palermo game is now really the last thing any juventino cares about — but Pirlo’s situation is still in doubt.

Regardless, Max Allegri has a few choices to make for Palermo, keeping in mind Pogba is suspended for the game. Give as many players as possible a good weekend’s rest or keep them on duty roster? Having just mentioned the former Juventus manager, he used to unnecessarily field the best XI when more important games were around the corner. It might be a good chance for Allegri to interrupt the trend.

MATCH SUMMARY

Right in the very first minute, there was an almost terrible blunt from Storari who had a moment of incertitude with the ball at his feet and Simone Zaza took full advantage of it.

It was a first half of little action, however, as too many poor touches and misplaced passes undermined Juventus’ chances of creating something dangerous for Andrea Consigli’s goal, while Sassuolo were more than pleased to defend the 0-0 and try to hit on the counter.

Pereyra and Carlos Tévez played a short corner-kick in the 11th minute and then found Marchisio unmarked in the box but the Italian midfielder skyed his volley.

Tévez had the first decent opportunity for Juventus in the 21st minute when he received a ball from Alvaro Morata right at the edge of the box and after beating his man with the first touch, sent a powerful left-footed shot at the near post but the ball went over the goal.

It was the same Argentine striker had the first shot on target from distance in the 33rd minute but it was aimed straight at Consigli who parried the ball away easily.

A few moments later, Leonardo Bonucci played a horrendous pass inside his own half and it was intercepted by Simone Missiroli who found Zaza with his first touch. The attacker was in a great position and Tévez was forced to bring him down in order to deal with the danger, receiving a yellow card in the process.

Nicola Sansone took the resulting free-kick from 25 yards out but it was an easy save for Storari — it turned out later it was also the only save the veteran goalkeeper had to make all game.

There was a last half decent chance for the hosts just before the half time as Tévez cut inside from the left and found Vidal in a central position but the Chilean’s shot was blocked and went behind for a corner-kick. Nothing resulted from the set piece and referee Sebastiano Peruzzo blew the half time whistle.

Second half started pretty much in the same fashion the first one ended, with Juventus applying pressure close to the opposite box with few results.

Pogba missed the first good opportunity in the 52nd minute when his low shot from just outside the area was tipped wide by Consigli.

The pressure was mounting as Juventus appeared to have increased the pace a bit and the next chance felt five minutes later to Tévez who sliced a volley just inches away from the far post, following a deflected cross from Stephan Lichtsteiner.

Morata found some space inside the box in the 62nd minute but his shot missed the target. That was his latest action of the game as he was replaced a minute later by Fernando Llorente, while Simone Pepe replaced Pereyra.

Allegri changed to a 4-3-3 with that double substitution, theoretically moving Tévez wide, but the Argentine kept roaming around asking for the ball whenever he had the chance.

Juventus started to flood Sassuolo’s box with crosses after these changes — mainly because of Pepe and probably the general lack of ideas — but 20 more minutes passed before the agony ended.

Pogba eventually found the breakthrough for Juventus in the 82nd minute after a very quick build-up involving Vidal and Pepe. The Chilean won the ball inside his half and passed it to Pepe who found space down the middle of the pitch. The winger seemed to be aiming the ball for Tévez on the left side of the pitch but Pogba took it with the outside of his boot at about 20 yards out and with the next touch sent a great volley close to the post that gave Consigli no chance.

Juventus managed to keep Sassuolo away from their own box rather comfortably in the final minutes and after Zaza was booked for his third handball of the game, referee Peruzzo put an end to the match.

PLAYER RATINGS

Storari: 6.5 One steady save from the veteran who was idle for most of the time

Lichtsteiner: 5.5 A lot of balls went astray from the Swiss defender who seems to be ineffective out of his usual wing-back role

Bonucci: 6 Kept Zaza quiet relatively easy and was involved in quite a few build-up actions for Juventus. Decent attempt with the shot from very far out

Chiellini: 6 Started the game a bit shaky but regained his composure as it went on. Couple of decent chances to score following corner kicks but he didn’t direct his headers properly

Evra: 6 Good runs down the left flank but his crosses were poor. The same average performance from the Frenchman he displayed all season

Vidal: 5.5 Good work to launch the counter for the goal, but had the same alarmingly quiet game

Marchisio: 6 More steady than his latest performance against Fiorentina, but despite being a solid presence in midfield, il Principino didn’t do too much to help the attacks

Pogba: 7 Saved the match for Juventus doing exactly what a top player does when his game is poor overall — steps up on one occasions and delivers the killer punch

Pereyra: 5.5 Dire performance from the Argentine, whose poor passing and positioning were once more weakening the attacking moves

Tévez: 6.5 Was the only spark in attack for Juventus for most of the time, always on the move asking for balls but his efforts were not rewarded with a goal.

Morata: 5.5 Rather frustrating night for the Spaniard who was constantly drifting left and right in an attempt to find more space as Sassuolo’s defence was crammed in the middle.

Subs

Pepe: 6 Delivered quite a few crosses after he replaced Pereyra in the 63rd minute and also provided the assist – although probably by mistake

Llorente: 5.5 Replaced Morata but was rarely seen on the pitch. Had one half decent chance but his effort was too weak

Barzagli: HE’S BACK!

Coach

Allegri: 5.5 Despite making a double substitution with half an hour left to play, little things changed afterwards and the team still seemed impotent to find a breakthrough. Was saved by Pogba’s late strike but Allegri needs to give the players a bit of jolt ahead of Dortmund