Federico Bernardeschi’s second half goal was enough to give Juventus a 1-0 win over a determined Cagliari at the Stadio Sant’Elia on Saturday evening.
The Italian international poked home Douglas Costa’s low cross to ensure the Bianconeri left Sardinia with all three points as the match went with the Ladbrokes odds, but they were made to work for the win.
After a topsy-turvy first half in which both sides rattled the woodwork, a series of injuries and breaks in play saw the visitors struggle to break through until Bernardeschi sank Rossoblu hearts.
Juventus dominated possession in the early stages but were almost hit on the counter from the off. Nicolo Barella pinched the ball out wide and lofted in a cross from deep, but the on-rushing Artur Ionita was unable to get a strong enough contact to guide the ball on target.
The Bianconeri began to flex their muscles though, and came within a whisker of taking the lead within 10 minutes. A mazy Paulo Dybala run was brought to a halt with a barge by Leonardo Pavoletti on the edge of the box, and the Argentine dusted himself to strike a wicked curling freekick, only to see the ball cannon off the bar.
Moments later, the champions rattled the woodwork again. Bernardeschi collected a loose ball and cut in on his left foot before unleashing a bending effort across the face of goal which came back off the post.
Cagliari were posing a threat on the counter though, particularly through Pavoletti. A looping Paolo Farago cross was met by the forward at the back post, but he could only nod over.
At the midway point of the first half Juventus looked to have broken the deadlock, as Medhi Benatia sidefooted Miralem Pjanic’s deep freekick home in the box. The Moroccan’s celebrations were cut short by the offside flag however.
Indeed, the visitors almost found themselves behind immediately after the strike was chalked off.
The threatening Pavoletti rose highest to power a Cagliari corner on target from close range, forcing a point-blank parry from Wojciech Sczcesny. The Polish goalkeeper showed superb reflexes to immediately dive down low to block the follow up and clear the danger.
The hosts squandered a glorious opportunity to take the lead on the stroke of halftime, as Sczcesny once again came to Juventus’ rescue. Another rapid counter allowed Pavoletti to tee up Diego Farias in the box, but the Brazilian’s low shot at the near post was palmed onto the post by the goalkeeper.
After the break, Juventus looked to assert their authority but saw momentum interrupted by injuries to both Dybala and Sami Khedira. Douglas Costa, who replaced the former, came close early on after a series of step overs allowed him to fashion a bending effort that whistled over the bar.
Pjanic ought to have given the Bianconeri the lead on the hour mark, after Higuain drew three defenders towards him before squaring across. The Bosnian could only slice his first time effort wide though.
Juventus were struggling to create clear cut chances however, with Cagliari more than holding their own in midfield.
However, the Sardinians were undone with a quarter of an hour remaining, as Douglas Costa’s jinking run allowed him to get beyond Cagliari’s backline and square for an easy Bernardeschi tap in.
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Almost immediately from the restart, Cagliari were infuriated when calls for a penalty were waived away. The Rossoblu were adamant that Simone Padoin’s freekick came off Bernardeschi’s arm before being sliced clear by Benatia, but their protests fell on deaf ears.
Ultimately, Juventus were able to see the match out and hold for victory, as they go into the winter break a single point off Napoli at the summit of Serie A.