Dejan Kulusevski scored his first goal since January as Juventus took another step towards securing a Champions League spot with a 3-1 win over Genoa.
Kulusevski opened the scoring early on and Alvaro Morata doubled Juve’s lead midway through the first half of Sunday’s Serie A clash at Allianz Stadium.
Genoa posed much more of a threat after the break and Gianluca Scamacca’s goal early in the second half gave them hope.
Weston McKennie gave Andrea Pirlo’s side breathing space with a third goal as they moved a point behind third-placed Milan with eight games to play.
Juan Cuadrado was the architect for Juve’s opening goal four minutes in, bamboozling Nicolo Rovella with great trickery before cutting the ball into the path of Kulusevski, who found the far corner of the net with a measured left-foot finish.
The champions were in the mood and doubled their last after 21 minutes, with a moment to forget for Ivan Radovanovic.
Federico Chiesa raced away from the defender after robbing him just inside the Juve half before forcing a fine save from Mattia Perin and although Cristiano Ronaldo struck the post from a tight angle, the onrushing Morata lashed the loose ball home with his left foot.
Perin palmed Adrien Rabiot’s rasping drive away and Wojciech Szczesny prevented Scamacca from pulling a goal back on the stroke of half-time after the striker got away from Matthijs de Ligt and Giorgio Chiellini with a sharp turn.
Scamacca halved the deficit three minutes into the second half, though, heading home an outswinging corner from the Juve-owned Rovella with De Ligt on the floor claiming he was pushed.
The Bianconeri looked shaky at the back and Marko Pjaca forced a great save from Szczesny before the same player fired wastefully off target from inside the area.
McKennie eased the tension just a couple of minutes after coming on, calmly finishing after clearly thinking he had strayed offside.
What does it mean? Juve respond to Pirlo’s demands
Pirlo called on his players to show the same attitude against the smaller clubs that they did against Napoli ahead of the visit of Genoa.
The champions stepped up for the Juve boss and although they came under pressure during the second half, Genoa were left deflated by McKennie’s goal.
Juve had gained fewer points against bottom-half teams than any other side in the top seven before this match, but deserved this victory and have a top-four finish in their sights.
Cuadrado catches the eye again
Cuadrado has been excellent for Juve this season and the Colombia international stood out once again.
He took his tally of Serie A assists to eight in the current campaign, showing fast feet and a drop of the shoulder to beat Rovella before setting up Kulusevski.
Frustration for Ronaldo
Ronaldo has 32 goals to his name this season for Juve, but this was not his afternoon.
The Portugal captain will wonder how he struck the woodwork following up before Morata tucked home and hit the target with only two of his six shots.
Key Opta Facts
– Kulusevski has been involved in five goals (three goals and two assists) against Genoa in Serie A, more than against any other side in the Italian top-flight.
– Cuadrado provided seven assists in Serie A 2020-21: a record for him in a single Serie A season.
– Only Borna Sosa (nine) provided more assists than Cuadrado (seven) in the top five European leagues without finding the net this season.
– Morata has scored eight goals in Serie A this season, equalling his record of goals in a single top-flight campaign (also eight in 2014-15).
– No USA player has scored more goals than McKennie in the top five European leagues this season (five, level with Josh Sargent and Matthew Hoppe).
– Juventus scored two goals in their first 22 minutes in Serie A home games for the first time since August 2019 (Danilo and Higuain against Napoli).
Juve face a huge clash at fellow Champions League hopefuls Atalanta next Sunday, while Genoa travel to second-placed Milan.