Juventus defeated Roma 1-0 to open a seven-point gap at the top of the Serie A table, proving that once again, they are the supreme leaders of Italy.
Flexing their muscles, Juventus started the match with a point to prove. Intense, combative and determined, they bullied their way forward until they scored a goal before Roma even had a chance to settle in.
The desire to win the individual battles and create numerical superiority allowed the home side to enjoy control of the game and, while they were made to feel nervous in the end, their defensive strengths secured all three points.
For several years Juve had been accused of starting matches slowly, taking their time to settle in before playing to their full potential. However, this season the team have started matches with greater intensity and desire, attempting to score early on. Gonzalo Higuain’s 14th-minute goal was the seventh time Juve have scored within the first 15 minutes of the game in Serie A. Unlike previous seasons, this Bianconeri side refuses to take anything for granted and is quick to lay down the marker.
Juventus love nothing more than an opportunity to utilise their strengths and play with intensity to secure a result. However, the squad has been heavily invested in and is brimming with technical brilliance and, as such, should be playing an elevated style of football to secure wins, as opposed to fighting with physical determination until the end. A win is still all that matters, but with so many capable players, can we not expect more elegance?
Manager rating out of 10
7 — Max Allegri prepared his men for combat, and the side’s tenacity and eagerness to win their individual duels won Juve the game. However, the coach is yet to unleash the full potential of the side, to play with greater cohesion and control.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Gianluigi Buffon, 6 — A composed performance at the back, Buffon was made to worry on occasion but read his angles well.
DF Stephan Lichtsteiner, 6 — The player interpreted the tactics very well, offering a passing outlet to ensure numerical superiority. Measured at the back and eager going forward.
DF Daniele Rugani, 7 — A tremendous performance from a player who has grown leaps and bounds. Playing with character and confidence, he muzzled Roma striker Edin Dzeko and imposed his strength to keep Juventus secure at the back. The hero.
DF Giorgio Chiellini, 6 — An experienced performance from the player who won his battles and ensured security.
DF Alex Sandro, 6 — Always looked a little fragile when made to defend but is slowly improving at the back. The Brazilian made life difficult for Antonio Rudiger and always looked to contribute offensively.
MF Sami Khedira, 6 — Not as switched-on as usual, but his work rate can never be faulted.
MF Claudio Marchisio, 7 — A complete performance from the player who ensured defensive solidity by hindering Roma’s attacking play. Intelligent with his positioning and passing, he is getting better and better at dictating the flow of the game.
MF Stefano Sturaro, 7 — A game suited for the player’s physical attributes, Sturaro fought, stubbornly kept hold of the ball and played with tenacity to secure possession and control in the midfield.
MF Miralem Pjanic, 6 — Worked well between the lines and moved intelligently but was unable to affect the game as he wanted, suffering from injury to exit the game early.
FW Gonzalo Higuain, 8 — His goal was worth every penny Juve spent on the star who has long been accused of failing to score on the big occasions. Not anymore! Fighting, dribbling and demonstrating his predatory nature, Higuain scored the winner in stunning fashion.
FW Mario Mandzukic, 7 — No player on the field boasts a better work ethic. Not only is he skilled at creating space and opportunities for his teammates, he is always able to lend a hand to the defence to ensure security at the back. A team player.
MF Juan Cuadrado, 6 — Frustrating as ever, the player struggled to make an impact. Despite being physically quick, he takes too long to make the right decision and keeps hold of the ball for much longer than need be.
DF Andrea Barzagli, 6 — Experienced and composed, Barzagli offered defensive guarantees.
FW Paulo Dybala, N/A — Not on for long but never stopped running in hopes of securing another goal.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.