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Juventus’ win over Milan wasn't pretty, but it didn't need to be

Juve's performance left a lot to be desired, but all that matters at this stage are the three points.

Juventus FC v AC Milan - Serie A Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

It wasn’t pretty, but at this stage of the season it doesn’t need to be. Though Juventus' 2-1 win over AC Milan last Friday night won’t go down as their best performance of the campaign, the Bianconeri still find themselves eight points clear at the top of the table as a result of the victory. It may have taken 24 shots on goal, seven minutes of added time and a controversial penalty, but Juve eventually found a way to put three points on the board, continuing to separate themselves from the chasing pack.

Every title-chasing team will have those games where they need a huge slice of luck to dig themselves out of a tricky contest. Gianluigi Donnarumma seemed invincible at times, especially in the second half, as Juve threw everything they had at him. A draw looked a certainty, with Roma and Napoli licking their lips at a possible faltering from the champions.

Fortunately, referee Davide Massa generously awarded a penalty for a Mattia De Sciglio handball deep into injury time although replays show that there was definite contact between ball and hand. De Sciglio and Milan will have felt hard done by, but his arm did stop the ball from being played into the box thus leaving himself vulnerable to being penalised.

Whether you want to call it luck or a reward for being persistent attackers on Milan’s goal, Juve were no doubt relieved. They were let off a potential slip-up despite their average outing and were only too happy to walk away with three huge points when such an outcome looked unlikely. The term “winning ugly” is always applied as a feature of champions, and this was certainly one of those grind-it-out victories.

The sudden unavailability of Mario Mandzukic will have thrown Massimiliano Allegri’s pre- match preparations into disarray, with Mandzukic being such a key part of the manager's 4-2-3-1 formation. Though Marko Pjaca looked lively, especially for someone that would not have expected to start, he brings a much different style of play to what the rest of the attackers would be used to from Mandzukic. That late change will have affected the week-long gameplan laid out to the squad by Allegri. However, it ultimately didn't matter in the end.

Being able to adjust to situations like this is just another reason why Juve constantly find themselves above their rivals. It wasn’t a perfect position that the players found themselves in. Just like it wasn’t a perfect performance that they put in. Had Gerard Deulofeau been able to capitalize on Medhi Benatia’s sloppy back pass in the second half, Milan probably leave Turin with all three points. But you need luck in this sport sometimes, and Juventus got the rub of the green on a couple of occasions throughout the match. Much like last week’s 1-1 draw at Udinese, Juve were able to avoid a disaster result and have gained four huge points in the space of five days.

A draw is never a great result, but in the context of last week’s events prior to the Udinese game, it was crucial Juventus left with something. Roma’s loss against Napoli allowed Allegri’s side to extend their lead at the top, which meant another week passed without any ground being made on the defending champions. Last Friday’s win meant there was zero chance of their closest challengers closing the gap this weekend as well. They know that time is running out to make this title race into anything other than an inevitable Juve triumph.

The performances have been far from spectacular in the last fortnight. The results, meanwhile, have been more than satisfactory. The sign of champions isn’t the ability to win when playing well, it’s being able to pull points out of the bag when a negative result looks a foregone conclusion. Juventus are heading for their sixth consecutive Serie A title, and it's clear these players know all too well what it takes to be champions, as evidenced by their recent results.