Paulo Dybala hands Juventus last-gasp win over AS Roma
They say the mark of a great team is one that achieves victory despite the mediocrity of their play. Against Roma on Sunday evening, Juventus proved they are indeed the team to beat, managing a 1-0 scoreline that not only keeps them in the hunt for domestic honours but widens the gap between them and the chasing pack.
A match full of fouls and silly decisions, Juventus started well but failed to make the most of their chances as their opponent attempted to settle in. Defending in organised fashion despite the lack of genuine talent at the back, Roma worked immensely hard on hindering a Bianconeri side that has forgotten how to lose. Similar to Inter, Roma opted to demonstrate their physicality and targeted Paulo Dybala who struggled to make an impact when consistently thrown on to the floor.
The Giallorossi may have defended with heart, but they created little in attack and allowed Juventus to grow into the game. Massimiliano Allegri's side struggled to offer a little unpredictability and seemingly ran out of ideas, attempting similar patterns of play over and over again. However, when a side boasts the technical brilliance of Paul Pogba and the clinical efficiency of Paulo Dybala, a goal is always possible.
The Old Lady deserved the win for her desire to succeed coupled with the intensity of play ensured the 11th consecutive victory to strike fear into the heart of the rest of the competition.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Gianluigi Buffon, 6 -- Barring the one shot on target Roma had, Buffon has very little to do. A spectator for the most part, he never fails to remain concentrated on the job.
DF Patrice Evra, 7 -- He missed his chances yet the Frenchman offered more than his Roman counterpart, placing himself in good decisions to maintain his team's attacking momentum. A reliable player who almost always makes the right decision, one hopes this won't be his last season as a Bianconero.
DF Andrea Barzagli, 6 -- No amount of time spent away from the pitch seems to have an effect on the veteran defender for he is consistently excellent. Reliable and intelligent, he never risks anything at the back while his attacking third passes are pleasing to the eye.
DF Leonardo Bonucci, 6 -- His geometric passes can be a thing of beauty while his leadership skills come in handy in such fiercely contested matches. Composed and confident.
DF Giorgio Chiellini, 7 -- Again, Chiellini was the best defender on the night, labouring away to make the necessary challenges to secure the defence. Reading the game well and always on hand to rescue his teammates, he is the ever present warrior who muted Edin Dzeko.
DF Stephan Lichtsteiner, 5 -- Not the greatest of evenings for the Swiss. He might always offer his teammates a solution for a pass but he failed to offer much going forward on this occasion. A dull performance.
MF Sami Khedira, 6 -- A few missteps from the German on the night but he can be counted upon to always look forward, attempting to create chances while he offers balance to the squad, making the necessary runs to safeguard the defence.
MF Claudio Marchisio, 6 -- Hindered from impacting the game as well as he does when in charge of the control room, his intelligence is still of great importance in a match in which he is required to understand what spaces he should occupy and where he must position himself. Defensively excellent on the night.
MF Paul Pogba, 7 -- His assist was absolutely perfect and made up for a night in which he succumbed to poor decision making, especially towards the latter stage of the match. One always capable of a moment in magic, his understanding of the game is improving but he must be more composed when forced to play under pressure.
FW Mario Mandzukic, 6 -- A man who puts the team before himself, the Croatian is relentless when it comes to fighting for his teammates. A player who defends from the top and never gives up on any ball, his desire is evident and appreciated.
FW Paulo Dybala, 8 -- The Argentine suffered greatly to impose himself against a physical opponent who always sought to foul. Yet despite the difficult nature of the game and his wrong interpretation of the tactics in the first half, the youngster did not miss the opportunity to make his mark, scoring a wonderful goal to seal all three points.
DF Juan Cuadrado, 7 -- He immediately made an impact on he right when introduced as he looked to drive the team forward and take on the opponent. His cunning ability comes in handy as he knows how to win fouls in advantageous positions.
FW Alvaro Morata, N/A -- Wasn't offered much time to impact the match.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Minarzouki.