Two goals from Alex Sandro and a Matthijs de Ligt header moves Juventus into third in the Serie A table with a 3-1 win over relegation strugglers Parma to bolster the Italian champions’ chances of Champions League qualification.
Atalanta, one point behind, and Napoli – five behind in fifth - both play their game in hand on Thursday night as the race for the European places hots up in Italy.
Juve chairman and one of the European Super League ringleaders Andrea Agnelli watched from the stands as his side worked extremely hard to beat their financially inferior but highly competitive opponents.
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Parma goalkeeper Simone Colombi pulled off three saves in quick succession just before the ten-minute mark. First the 29-year-old parried away a Juan Cuadrado effort from close-range before batting behind a Cristiano Ronaldo strike for a corner. Moments later and Ronaldo followed up by missing a sitter as his stabbed effort from six yards out was clawed away by the unflappable Italian.
With Juventus looking bereft of ideas going forward, Parma capitalised by winning a free-kick on the edge of their box which Gaston Brugman expertly looped over the wall and dropped it into the bottom corner, leaving Gianluigi Buffon static.
Leonardo Bonucci headed narrowly wide in the 37th minute as Juventus ramped up the pressure and the hosts eventually got their equaliser two minutes before the break. Sandro fired into the top left corner on the run and on the volley for his first goal of the season.
The Brazilian surprisingly got his second quickly after the break. Ronaldo laid the ball off to Cuadrado in space on the right before the Colombia international played a neat sidefooted cross which looped into the path of Sandro at the far post who confidently headed home.
Parma almost equalised when Yordan Osorio’s header from a corner was cleared off the line by Arthur, but Juventus extended their lead in the 68th minute through De Ligt. The Netherlands international rose highest at the near post to nod in a Cuadrado corner.
Parma responded with a flurry of chances late on, but Buffon was able to tip over the best one, a close-range header from substitute Yann Karamoh, over the bar.
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Juventus have lacked sparkle all season and Wednesday night’s game was no different, but they got the job done and their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League – a competition they did not want any part of earlier this week – have been strengthened.
It was a particularly disappointing night for Ronaldo who missed a great chance to score in the first half, blasted one effort on goal over the bar in the second and was booked in injury time for booting the ball away into the stands in frustration. He also appeared to duck in the wall for Brugman’s free-kick in the first-half which may not go down too well with Juventus fans.
Ronaldo stormed down the tunnel at the end looking visibly upset and you have to wonder whether he has really been enjoying his time in Italy since his arrival in 2018.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Alex Sandro
Alex Sandro had not scored all season until the Parma game, he then went and grabbed two. The Brazilian’s goals were both very well taken, showing great invention for the first-half equaliser and excellent awareness to put Juventus in front.
The 30-year-old stepped up on a night where Juve’s attacking players looked suspect.
Juventus: Buffon (6), Danilo (6), De Ligt (7), Bonucci (6), Sandro (8), Cuadrado (7), Betancur (6), Arthur (6), McKennie (4), Dybala (6), Ronaldo (5)
Subs: Kulusevski (N/A), Rabiot (N/A), Ramsey (N/A), Morata (N/A), Bernardeschi (N/A)
Parma: Colombi (8), Laurini (5), Osorio (6). Bani (6), Pezzella (7), Grassi (5), Brugman (6), Kurtic (5), Man (5), Gervinho (5), Pelle (5)
Subs: Cornelius (6), Mihaila (5), Hernani (4), Karamoh (N/A), Busi (N/A)
8' - HUGE CHANCES! Sandro drills a low cross and Colombi parries it away to deny Cuadrado from tapping it in. Ronaldo then has a shot on goal and the goalkeeper is called into action again! He dives to his right to bat the ball behind for a corner. Dybala's corner is headed cleared by Kurtic... but again it comes to Ronaldo and his shot from point-blank range is parried away by that man Colombi once again! That was a sitter!
25' - GOAL!!!!! The McKennie foul means a Parma free-kick in a good position. Cuadrado is tonight's draught excluder behind the wall. Brugman's free-kick dips over the wall and into the bottom corner, leaving Buffon rooted to the spot...What a goal!! Parma lead!!
37' - BIG CHANCE!! The corner is headed clear at the near post by Pelle, but Juventus come back to attack. Danilo curls an inswinger into the path of Bonucci in the box, but his flicked header loops just wide of Colombi's right post! That was extremely close!!
43' - GOAL!!! Alex Sandro equalises! The Brazilian fires into the top left corner on the run and on the volley from inside the box! It is his first goal of the season and what a strike it was! We are level!
47' - GOAL!! And just like that Juventus take the lead and Sandro scores again! Cuadrado's neat first-time sidefooted cross to the far post is nodded in by the Brazilian! He hadn't scored this season before tonight. He now has two!
68' - GOAL!!!!! Juventus win a corner kick. Cuadrado swings it in and De Ligt powers his near-post header into the net! Juve have breathing space!
82' - CHANCES! A threatening cross into the box from Kurtici finds Karamoh from only a few yards out but his header is tipped over by Buffon! It may have been going over anyway. The following corner is nodded on goal by Bani, but he nods over!
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