Juventus moved ever closer to picking up another scudetto by beating Genoa 1-0 on Sunday, though the game was considerably less routine than expected. The mid-table hosts were excellent throughout, and missed a late penalty before Andrea Pirlo netted a spectacular last-gasp free-kick to send the points back to Turin.
Juve's Pablo Osvaldo twice put the ball in the back of the net in the first half, though on each occasion was denied by the offside flag. But don't let that fool you; it was far from 45 minutes of Juve domination. Their hosts looked to make the most of the raucous crowd by pressing the league leaders as high up the field as they could, in a frenetic high-tempo opening period.
It was a classic Gasperini performance, with the grifone denying Juventus time and space from front to back. The bianconeri were never able to patiently pick a pass; metronome Andrea Pirlo unable to dominate the midfield. Genoa were a little less convincing going forward; often giving the ball away with overambitious direct passes or being crowded out by the energetic Juve midfield, but they were still level when the halftime whistle blew.
Genoa managed to sustain their high tempo into the second half, and ten minutes after the restart, it almost paid dividends. With a quick stepover midfielder Andrea Bertolacci ghosted beyond Giorgio Chiellini on the edge of the area, only to tamely blast the ensuing shot straight against Gianluigi Buffon when face-to-face with the goalkeeper. The ensuing rebound fell kindly for Juve loanee Marco Motta, but for the first time in history he proved useful for the bianconeri, lashing wide of the far post.
Still, Antonio Conte's side looked unusually rattled by Genoa's dogged persistence, and the hosts should've finally had their reward with 20 minutes remaining. A handball in the penalty area by Arturo Vidal was punished with a spot-kick, though substitute Emanuele Calaiò's tame effort was comfortably held by a diving Buffon.
As if that wasn't bad enough for the grifone, there was still time for Juventus to net a winning goal and leave the plucky hosts with no points whatsoever. Cometh the hour, cometh the Andrea Pirlo free-kick, with the veteran midfielder curling a wonderful shot beyond Mattia Perin and into the top corner with just a minute of normal time left on the clock.
Mere mathematics is now all that is keeping Juventus' from getting their hands on a third consecutive scudetto.
Genoa: Perin; Marchese, De Maio, Burdisso; Antonelli, Bertolacci, Matuzalém, Sturaro, Motta; Gilardino (Calaiò 64'), Sculli.
Juventus: Buffon; Chiellini, Bonucci, Cáceres; Asamoah, Pogba, Pirlo, Vidal (Padoin 85'), Lichtsteiner (Isla 85'); Osvaldo (Quagliarella 79'), Llorente.
Goals: Pirlo (89').