By the time Juve's game away to Sampdoria rolled around, it was well known that a ninth straight win would put the Bianconeri tied for second place with Inter, who started the day in first place but lost earlier in the day to Sassuolo — thanks to a stoppage time penalty by (future Juventus player) Domenico Berardi.
Coach Max Allegri took the chance to make a few changes after the midweek win at home to Verona. Martin Caceres and Alex Sandro, who both started against on Wednesday, were moved to the bench in favor of Daniele Rugani — receiving his first Serie A start for Juve — and Patrice Evra. With Mario Mandzukic still missing, Alvaro Morata continued his run in the starting lineup, hoping to end his goal-scoring drought. The Spaniard has not scored in any competition since Oct. 4 of last year. The much-maligned Hernanes stepped into the regista role for the suspended Claudio Marchisio.
Sampdoria were improving under new coach Vincenzo Montella, winning their last two games, including the Genoa derby last Tuesday. However, they were well aware that facing the resurgent Juventus would be an altogether proposition. Antonio Cassano, starting again for Samp, has eight career goals against the Bianconeri.
Juventus started the game on the front foot, dominating possession, though there were not many clear cut chances created.
On nine minutes, Paul Pogba got the first shot on the Sampdoria goal, with a long range effort that went straight at Emiliano Viviano, making for a comfortable save. A few minutes later, Hernanes picked up a Paulo Dybala pass and also tried his luck with a long range left-footed shot; again, this was straight at the Sampdoria goalkeeper.
It took until the seventeenth minute for Juve to break the deadlock. Leonardo Bonucci played a brilliant scooped pass into the box where Pogba outmuscled the Samp right back Mattia Cassani to control on his chest, swivel and get a left footed shot off. It was more of a scuffed effort, but it had just enough on it to creep past the outstretched Viviano. 1-0 to Juve!
After the goal, Juve continued to control the game, not facing much from Sampdoria. A free kick was whipped into the box by Dybala, which forced Viviano to push away from inside his far post.
So far this season, Juve are yet to lose a game from a winning position, and based on the first half that trend looked like continuing. Sampdoria created their first — and only — threat on Juve's goal in the first half on the fortieth minute. A free kick on the edge of the box was slammed into the defensive wall by Brazilian midfielder Fernando.
Juve made the best possible start to the second half. Dybala, continuing his brilliant current form, threaded a lovely through ball for Khedira, who made a darting run into the box from midfield. The German midfielder controlled well before toe-poking past Viviano for Juve's second. Juve were 2-0 up and looking in full control.
On the hour mark, Eder almost pulled one back for the home team; Cassano supplying a terrific cross from the right, and the Brazilian-born Italian international rose highest to get his head to the ball but his attempt floated just wide with Gigi Buffon stuck to his spot.
Viviano had to get down low to palm a low Dybala shot away from goal. Just one minute later, Juve had the chance to make it 3-0 and effectively wrap up all three points. A corner came to Hernanes out on the right, and the Brazilian put in a beautiful cross which found the wide open Morata just outside the six yard box, but somehow the Spaniard put his diving header wide of the goal. This miss was reminiscent of his crucial miss against Sevilla in the Champions League, where he put a tap-in wide from similarly close to goal.
That miss proved to be crucial, as one minute later Sampdoria pulled one back. And nice one-two between Cassano and Carlos Carbonero ended with FantAntonio placing an angled shot passed Buffon. Some slack marking in the Juve defence — particularly from Hernanes, who lost Cassano — allowed the veteran to get free for the shot.
Just a couple minutes later, Sampdoria almost made it 2-2! Fernando was allowed too much time and space to drill just wide with Buffon stranded. This was almost unthinkable just mere minutes earlier, as Juve seemed in complete control of this game.
In stoppage time, Sampdoria defender Niklas Moisander was shown a straight red card for his late sliding tackle on Simone Zaza, getting nowhere near the ball. This seemed a harsh decision, and sparked some tension on the sidelines.
Giorgio Chiellini had to produce a goal line clearance with pretty much the last kick of the game, salvaging what turned out to be a hard fought draw for Juve. Despite the late scare, Juve racked up their ninth win in a row, and moved up to second place in the Serie A table, tied with Inter.
Buffon 7 He couldn't really be blamed for the goal, and was left rooted to the spot on a couple of occasions. Still a solid performance from Super Gigi.
Rugani 7.5 The young defender showed us the reason why he played every minute of every game for Empoli last season. Given his first league start this season, Rugani showed no nerves, and displayed almost impeccable positioning and a maturity beyond his twenty-one years. Well done and I hope he continues to get more such opportunities.
Bonucci 6.5 Solid game by Leo. He was a bit slow to closing down Cassano on the goal, but a solid game otherwise.
Chiellini 7.5 Typical Chiellini game, showing all his experience, toughness and cynicism at key times to help bring the win home. Performed an important clearance at the end of the game as well.
Lichtsteiner 6.5 Solid game by Stephan. Seemed to be tiring and was subbed off for Cuadrado in the second half.
Khedira 8 An all-action performance from the experienced German, showing us what we know he's capable of once he's fully fit. Scored a lovely "striker's" goal, which turned out to be the winner. Let's hope the injuries subside for some time and we can get the best out of him in the second half of the season.
Hernanes 6 One of his better performances for Juve, though there still leaves a lot to be desired — like his defending, for one. Lost Cassano on the Sampdoria goal, and got beat by Fernando way too easily on his close shave minutes later. He did play some decent passes though and had one lovely cross (the header that Morata missed).
Pogba 8 Pogba continues his great form. The shot on his goal wasn't the cleanest but his work to control the ball, spin and shoot — all while holding off a defender — deserves praise. Worked tirelessly on both ends of the ball.
Evra 6 There was a point in the game that I literally forgot that Evra was on the pitch. This isn't necessarily a bad thing for a defender, but considering he's playing as a wingback and is to attack as well, that isn't a good thing either. I won't say he had a bad game, rather he was just quiet.
Dybala 7.5 Dybala just did what Dybala does. He played a top notch pass on Khedira's goal, and only some nifty goalkeeping from Viviano kept him off the scoresheet. With nine goals and five assists so far this season in the league, Dybala is well on course to do (much) better than his breakout season last year with Palermo.
Morata 6 Sigh, another game, another goalless return and another missed sitter. You keep thinking that he just needs one to go in to regain his confidence and then regain his form, but then he keeps missing great chances like he did today. We can only hope that he shakes off this funk as soon as possible. For the time being, let's comfort ourselves by remembering that it was in the second half of last season that he really kicked on (around February) and hope that lightning strikes twice.
Cuadrado 6 Came on for the tiring Lichtsteiner to run at the Sampdoria defence and relieve some pressure. He did what was needed, even drawing key fouls to swing momentum.
Zaza s/v - Got Moisander sent off, but other than that did not have much impact.
Allegri 7.5 What a ride it's been under Max this season. Some were calling for his head after Juve's poor start to the season, but Allegri stuck to his word and has turned things around. What continues to trouble Allegri, as well as most fans, is this propensity to lose focus and take the foot off the gas when leading. It happened against Carpi — which famously saw Allegri hulk out — and it happened again tonight. No doubt Allegri will continue to work on this mental lapse.
Next week marks the start of the second half of the league season, and Juve travel to play Udinese; the patient zero, if you will, of Juve's terrible start to the season. After nine wins in a row and climbing the table all the way to second place and two points out of first, who would bet against the Bianconeri making it ten out of ten?