Juventus’ win over Fiorentina typifies their winning nature in the past few months, though Gianluigi Buffon and a bit of fortune helped weather the storm late on
The win for Juventus puts them one step closer to their fifth straight Scudetto as they beat Fiorentina 2-1 at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. Goals from Mario Mandžukić, his fourth in his last five games, and Álvaro Morata saw the Bianconeri show their clinical nature, but Paulo Sousa and Fiorentina will be wondering about what could have been.
Juventus were without a lot of players due to injury, including Roberto Pereyra, Claudio Marchisio and Giorgio Chiellini, and that led to Daniele Rugani retaining his place in the back three while Mario Lemina came in alongside Sami Khedira and Paul Pogba. For Fiorentina, they were without Matías Vecino and Khouma Babacar. That meant that Nikola Kalinić went unchallenged in his role up top, while Borja Valero moved back into the midfield and Cristian Tello played in the two behind the striker with Josip Iličić.
The first half saw Fiorentina control a lot of the ball, but also saw Juventus counter excellently. La Vecchia Signora scored in the 39th minute through Mario Mandžukić, though Fiorentina had two chances in which they, perhaps, should have got a goal. Federico Bernardeschi got in behind the Juventus defence and beat Gianluigi Buffon to put La Viola 1-0 ahead, but it was called back for offside. Replays afterwards showed that Patrice Evra was playing the 22-year-old onside. Nineteen minutes later, Juventus went 1-0 ahead. Paulo Dybala came short to get the ball and that allowed the midfielders to push on. Sami Khedira then played a ball to the back post which Paul Pogba headed down and Mario Mandžukić excellently volleyed past Ciprian Tătărușanu to put the Bianconeri ahead. Then, just before half-time, Marcos Alonso was brought down in the box after Daniele Rugani pulled on his shirt during Bernardeschi’s corner. Two decisions that went against Fiorentina, but Juventus were clinical with theirs – and they had another ruled out for offside, although this decision by the officials was correct.
Eight minutes after half-time, Josip Iličić had to go off with an injury and that really dried up a lot of Fiorentina’s creativity. Not too much happened until 81st minute, with Daniele Rugani yellow card – his first in Serie A after 53 appearances – in the 72nd minute being the most notable event. With nine minutes from time, though, Nikola Kalinić equalised. After Leonardo Bonucci was caught playing on the ball, Borja Valero dispossessed the 28-year-old and passed to Kalinić who then curled a shot into the corner of Buffon’s net. Then, one minute and 45 seconds later, Juventus re-took the lead through substitute Álvaro Morata. Mandžukić headed back Pogba’s corner and Patrice Evra was there to shoot at goal but his shot was blocked and the ball fell to Morata who poked home. It typified the response of champions. The drama wasn’t finished there. Kalinić beat substitute Juan Cuadrado, ran into the box and then went down under minimal contact to deceive the referee into giving a penalty. Karma, however, prevailed as the Croatian had his penalty saved, and then Buffon saved the rebound from Bernardeschi. In the final seconds, Fiorentina then hit the post with Kalinić again being involved as his header crashed against the crossbar, despite his best efforts to arc his back and head it goalwards.
Juventus will come away from the game knowing that their job is done. Juventus knew that a win in Florence would mean a loss for Napoli in their game against Roma on Monday would secure a fifth straight Scudetto title; the first time that Juventus have achieved that feat since the 1934/35 season. Allegri again showed that he is one of the best in the business when it comes to bringing on the right player and Álvaro Morata’s winner typified that. Morata’s goal means that the Spaniard has now scored or assisted seven goals in his last six appearances with three goals and four assists. Fiorentina and Paulo Sousa will ultimately feel like they should have picked up at least a point; Bernardeschi’s goal, Kalinić’s penalty and then Kalinić hitting the bar in the 93rd minute will leave Viola fans wondering about what could have been.
Next up for Fiorentina is a trip to in-form Chievo, though they lost 1-0 to Atalanta earlier in the day. After a run in which they have won just one of their last 10, a promising season has sizzled out and La Viola now face a battle to retain their 5th place position, let alone push for 4th. For Juventus, they will have the visit of Carpi to the J Stadium, but Bianconeri eyes will be transfixed on the Roma-Napoli game on Monday afternoon as they could go into the game next Sunday as champions. Considering that Juventus were 12th on October 28, the way in which they have come back and obliterated the rest of Serie A has been very impressive and thoroughly enjoyable to watch. Their fifth straight Scudetto title looks imminent.