Ten-man Juventus slipped to a disappointing 3-1 defeat against Lazio on Saturday evening, as the visitors missed the opportunity to leapfrog rivals Inter at the top of the Serie A table.
The Old Lady took the lead on 25 minutes, when Cristiano Ronaldo latched onto a dangerous cross from Rodrigo Bentancur to tap home his first goal from open play in 49 days. Lazio equalised on the stroke of half time however, Luiz Felipe powering home an unstoppable header from an inviting Luis Alberto cross.
Juve were reduced to ten men with around 20 minutes left to play, when Juan Cuadrado scythed down Manuel Lazzari, just as the Italian defender was bearing down on the Bianconeri goal. Le Aquile capitalised on their man advantage only moments later, Alberto delivering an inch-perfect ball into the box which Sergej Milinkovic-Savic brought down and stroked past Wojciech Szczęsny.
The hosts were handed the opportunity to put the game beyond the Serie A champions, when Joaquin Correa was fouled by Szczęsny in the penalty area, but the Polish goalkeeper pulled off a sensational double save to deny Ciro Immobile.
Juventus barely threatened to stage a fightback with the hosts controlling possession in the final minutes, and substitute Felipe Caicedo then sealed the win in the final minute of injury time, denting Maurizio Sarri’s title hopes.
Starting XI: Strakosha (7); Acerbi (7), Luis Felipe (8), Radu (7); Lazzari (8), Milinkovic-Savic (8), Leiva (8), Alberto (9*), Lulic (7); Correa (8), Immobile (6).
Substitutes: Parolo (6), Cataldi (6), Caicedo (N/A).
Key Talking Point
See, England, this is how VAR should be used! With just over twenty minutes left on the clock, Lazio found themselves two-on-one with a dangerous counter attack, and Lazzari was clean through on goal. Then, whack. Cuadrado hacked the wing-back down as the last man, and Juventus’ fate seemed sealed.
The referee shocked the entire stadium however, by only producing a yellow card, but the decision was overturned with the intervention of VAR and Cuadrado received his marching orders. It was a moment which changed the match, as Lazio took the lead only minutes later, and we can all thank VAR for its vital intervention.
Starting XI: Szczesny (7); Cuadrado (7), Bonucci (6), De Ligt (7), Alex Sandro (6); Bentancur (7), Pjanic (9*), Matuidi (8); Bernardeschi (6); Dybala (6), Ronaldo (8).
Substitutes: Can (6), Danilo (6), Higuain (6).
STAR MAN – One of the most mesmerising midfielders in the world. Miralem Pjanic was back on his old stomping ground in Rome, and he put in the sort of performance which convinced Juventus to sign him from Roma back in 2016. The 29-year-old drifted around the the front of his backline breaking up attacks, and constantly providing an option for his teammates.
The Bosnia international is a wonderfully talented footballer in possession, and his range of passing and his timing when delivering the killer pass makes him an absolute joy to watch. Whilst Matuidi charged up and down the pitch, Pjanic provided the perfect calm foil for the Frenchman and fellow midfielder Emre Can, ensuring Juve moved the ball with purpose, precision and pace.
A masterclass which we’ve come to expect from the human metronome.
Lazio travel to France when they take on Rennes in Thursday’s Europa League tie, before facing in-form Cagliari on the following Monday evening.
Juventus face a trip to Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday night, and I Bianconeri then host Udinese at the Allianz Stadium on Sunday afternoon.