Alvaro Morata’s first-half strike was enough to give Juventus victory against Spezia despite an unconvincing display in their Serie A clash.
The only goal of the game came after 21 minutes when Dusan Vlahovic stole the ball just outside the penalty area and flicked a pass to Manuel Locatelli who immediately played the ball on to Morata in the left hand side of the area, and the Spaniard finished with aplomb.
Juan Cuadrado could have extended the lead before the break, forcing a decent save out of Ivan Provedel, but there was little threat from the hosts thereafter and they had to hold on in the second half.
Spezia did not create enough chances given their territorial advantage in the second half, but Emmanuel Gyasi muffed a great chance to head home Salvador Ferrer’s cross and then Kevin Agudelo forced a good save from Wojciech Szczesny with 11 minutes remaining.
Morata should have notched a second in added on time when Cuadrado beat his man and fired a low cross inside the six-yard box but the Spaniard swung a leg at the ball which ballooned away from the target.
Though far from their best, most importanly the Bianconeri took all three points which just about keeps them within reach of the top three.
Dybala’s importance laid bare – The Argentine star has been heavily linked with a move to Inter Milan at the end of the season and this match illustrated how Juventus will miss him if he leaves the club. Dusan Vlahovic has been fantastic since moving from Fiorentina, settling in far quicker than anyone could have hoped, but he was starved of decent service in this match. Missing this match with a hip flexor, after thigh issues kept him out of the previous two matches, Dybala’s absence was particularly felt against a team who did not dash forward to leave space for Juventus’ players on the break. Without their creative hub, it was only really Juan Cuadrado on the right who was a perennial threat. If they are to mount an unlikely Scudetto challenge in the next two months, they need him fit.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Juan Cuadrado (Juventus) – Sometimes a frustrating presence, Cuadrado as an old-fashioned right winger in this match was the best player on display. His ability to utilise his quick feet in traffic, bought him space on a number of occasions and could easily have resulted in goals for himself, Arthur and then Morata in injury time. At 33, with his contract up in the summer, his future is up in the air but on this performance he looks to have a lot left in him.
Juventus: Szczesny 7; Danilo 6, De Ligt 6, Rugani 6, Pellegrini 6; Locatelli 7, Arthur 7, Rabiot 6; Cuadrado 8*, Morata 7, Vlahovic 6.
Subs: Bernadeschi 6, Kean 6.
Spezia: Provedel 7; Ferrer 6, Erlic 7, Nikolaou 7, Reca 6; Bastoni 6, Maggiore 6, Agudelo 7; Gyasi 5, Verde 6, Manaj 6.
Subs: Bourabia 6, Kovalenko 7.
21′ GOAL FOR JUVENTUS! A fine goal from Morata. Vlahaovic took advantage of a defensive error slipping a pass quickly to Locatelli, who then set up Morata on the left hand side of the penalty area and he slotted home with precision.
32′ CUADRADO DENIED BY KEEPER! Cuadrado wins the ball then plays Arthur down the right flank who squares to back to the Colombian but though precise his finish wasn’t hard enough and Provedel was able to save diving to his left.
51′ WHAT A CHANCE FOR GYASI! Once more Ferrer was given a chance to cross and this time he did much better clipping a ball into the centre which Gyasi rose alone to head at goal but did not generate enough power to trouble Szczesny.
79′ GOOD SAVE FROM SZCZESNY! Agudelo was played through inside the left hand side of the penalty area by Kovalenko and shot low at the near post but the former Arsenal keeper spread himself to keep his side in front.
90+2′ MORATA SHOULD HAVE GOT A SECOND! Cuadrado drove the ball across the goal after beating his opposing left back but all Morata had to do was get in the way of the cross, instead he swung a leg at it and the ball bounced wide.