Paulo Dybala proved his worth with a vital 93rd minute winner for Juventus as they battled on to steal the points against Lazio on Saturday evening.
It seemed to the world as though the Biancocelesti had held the champions until the Argentina international showed his strength, quick feet and sheer determination to power through the Lazio defence before finishing into the top corner.
The tempo was set early on and it was quickly apparent that neither team were willing to sit back and invite pressure, with both starting on the front foot in search of an advantage. Marco Parolo drove a ball across goal that was neither a cross or shot before Juve had a penalty shout at the other end.
Paulo Dybala went to ground after contact with Lucas Leiva, but the Argentine appeared to make the most of the collision and Luca Banti waved away his appeals for a spot-kick.
A textbook Miralem Pjanic cross then should have provided the assist for the game’s opener. A deep free-kick on the right was perfectly executed and landed right on Mario Mandzukic’s head six yards from Lazio’s goal but the Croatian got completely under the ball and his header went over the bar.
Luis Alberto had a shot deflected behind at the other end. From the resulting corner he worked space to deliver a cross that found Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, whose header was saved low and well on the line by Gianluigi Buffon.
Midway through the first half Ciro Immobile came to life. Cutting in from the left 20-yards from goal he unleashed a powerful drive at goal, which Buffon was equal to as he got down to turn the ball behind again.
Juventus had the ball in the net just after the half-hour mark through Jordan Lukaku, but Banti had already blown for a foul in the box before the ball met the Belgian’s head.
Both started the second half with considerably more caution to their respective games, while still looking to put together attacking moves when possible but it was the champions who dominated possession and Lazio were forced to set up camp in their own half in the early stages. If Lazio were to get in it looked as though it would come behind Stephan Lichtsteiner, but Massimiliano Allegri reacted to Lukaku dominated his right back by withdrawing the Swiss for Douglas Costa.
Buffon hasn’t always looked sharp coming off his line in recent weeks but he played the role of sweeper effectively on the hour mark. Luis Alberto threaded a ball through for Immobile but the veteran goalkeeper was quick to leave his goal and clear the danger.
Lucas wanted a penalty as he went down on the same spot as Dybala under his foul in the first half after a reckless challenge from Medhi Benatia, but again Banti and VAR decided that there was no obvious infringement.
Juventus continued to gradually steal inches and push Lazio further back towards their own goal as they started to ever so slightly turn the screw.
In the game’s final seconds, Dybala picked up the ball on the edge of the box and worked his way into the area before taking a shot on the slide that flew into the top corner of Thomas Strakosha’s goal.
The Argentine’s form will be a key component as to whether Juve can proceed in the Champions League this week, with the Tottenham vs Juventus betting odds having the Premier League team as strong favourites.