A first half Atalanta masterclass looked to have blown the Scudetto race wide open, but their title dreams were all but extinguished as Juventus twice pegged them back from the penalty spot in a 2-2 draw on Saturday.
Coming into the Serie A clash at the Allianz Stadium nine points adrift of the Bianconeri but with nine consecutive league wins behind them, La Dea knew that victory would see them stake a claim in the Scudetto race.
Duvan Zapata’s early strike filled the Bergamo side with hope, and even though Cristiano Ronaldo netted from the spot after Marten De Roon handled, the Orobici oozed confidence.
Ruslan Malinovskiy’s thunderous strike looked to have won it for the visitors, but Ronaldo sank Nerazzurri hearts with another spot kick with just minutes left, as Luis Muriel again handled in the box.
Stray arms cost Atalanta dear
Few sides come to Turin and outplay Juventus so convincingly on their own turf, but for large swathes of this encounter Atalanta did just that. Dominating possession and keeping the ball in the hosts’ half meant Juventus struggled to find a way out and were often lacking the right shape to launch attacks of their own.
Two wonderfully taken goals, the first a fine example of Papu Gomez’s nous and technique to spin his man and play a killer through ball, looked to have moved La Dea into second and kept them hot on their opponents’ heels.
Yet, victory was snatched from them through two handball decisions, with neither De Roon nor Muriel able to get their arms out of the way in time. After such a domination, dropping crucial points in such a manner will be a devastating blow to Gian Piero Gasperini’s side.
Ruthless Ronaldo moves Juventus closer to title
With Lazio capitulating and Inter out of form, Juventus’ only challenge for the Scudetto appeared to be in the form of Atalanta. The Bianconeri themselves have dropped points aplenty recently, and could scarcely afford to allow the red hot Orobici gain further ground.
Whilst the circumstances may have been fortunate, star man Ronaldo showed the composure and determination that has made him a fulcrum of the team by dispatching two high-pressure penalties and sealing the draw.
The Portuguese was anonymous in the first half but showed flashes of brilliance after the break, and his calmness under pressure, coupled with his accuracy from the spot, gave Juventus a giant stride towards a ninth consecutive league title.