Juventus restored its three-point advantage at the summit of Serie A by digging in to claim a crucial 2-1 victory over Chievo at the Marc'Antonio Bentegodi on Sunday.
The title holders took the lead early on with a stunning volley from Alessandro Matri before doubling their advantage just before the break after Stephan Lichsteiner fired home at the end of a deadly counterattack. Cyril Thereau dragged the hosts back into the game when he fired home shortly after halftime, but Juve held on to put some daylight between themselves and second-placed Napoli.
The Bianconeri went into the game a side under pressure, having seen the Partenopei draw level with them at the top of the table by defeating Catania on Saturday. In addition, the champions were also without coach Antonio Conte and defender Leonardo Bonucci through suspension, the pair having been banned for their hostile reactions to last weekend’s draw at home to Genoa.
Juventus has proven nothing if not resilient over the past year or so, though, and the club began brightly in Verona, taking the lead just 10 minutes in with a sublime strike. Arturo Vidal pounced on a loose ball some 30 yards from goal before lofting a well-weighted pass in behind the Chievo defense for Matri, who demonstrated terrific technique in dispatching with a crisp left-footed volley.
It could so easily have been 2-0 moments later but Giovinco dragged his shot wide, after a well-worked one-two with strike partner Matri. Chievo, meanwhile, threatened for the first time midway through the first half when Luca Rigoni prodded the ball through for Alberto Paloschi, but the latter’s effort on goal was easily saved by Gianluigi Buffon.
Buoyed by that break, the hosts began to take more risks, but this left them increasingly exposed at the back, and their enterprise was brutally exploited by the Bianconeri just before the break. Matri was again involved, advancing into the area before pulling the ball across the box for Giovinco, who showed tremendous awareness in backheeling the ball into the path of the supporting Lichsteiner. The Swiss international had been denied by Christian Puggioni just moments before, after being put in on goal by Andrea Pirlo, but the wingback made no mistake this time around, lashing the ball into the top right corner.
A rout appeared a distinct possibility as the sides left the sun-drenched field at halftime, but Chievo returned a side transformed after the interval and halved its deficit on 52 minutes through Thereau, who found the bottom left corner of the Juve goal, after the ball had dropped nicely for him on the edge of the area.
Juve suddenly looked ruffled but, guided by Andrea Pirlo, the defending champion quickly regathered its composure and dealt quite comfortably with everything Chievo threw at them in the final half hour to collect three precious points and move back into sole possession of first place in Serie A.