Juventus kept their slim title hopes alive with a 3-1 win at relegation-threatened Sampdoria.
An Alvaro Morata double and an own goal from Maya Yoshida done the damage as the Bianconeri extended their unbeaten run this calendar year.
Despite a below-par first-half performance, the Old Lady led by two goals at the interval, making the most of their only chances.
Wojciech Szczesny was the busier of the two goalkeepers in the opening period, but then out of nowhere Juventus edged in front. Juan Cuadrado was set free on the counter-attack and his teasing cross was bundled over the line inadvertently by defender Yoshida.
Moise Kean, who took the place of the rested Dusan Vlahovic, then won the visitors a penalty and Morata tucked it away with aplomb.
It wasn’t until close to the hour-mark that Juventus landed their first shot on goal in open play as Wladimiro Falcone repelled Kean’s shot.
The troubled hosts had the perfect chance of halving the deficit when Adrien Rabiot handled inside the box, but Szczesny came to his side’s rescue, keeping Antonio Candreva’s penalty out with a strong one-handed save.
There was nothing Szczesny could do about Abdelhamid Sabiri’s 84th-minute free-kick, which took wicked deflection and ended up in the back of the net. That could have made things interesting, but Sampdoria’s hopes were quickly killed when Morata’s header restored Juve’s two-goal advantage just minutes later.
The results allows Juventus some breathing space in their quest for the top-four. They’re now nine points above fifth-placed Atalanta, although they have played two games more than their rival.
This victory moved them to within four points of leaders AC Milan, albeit only briefly as the Rossoneri defeated Empoli later on Saturday night.
Towards the bottom of the table, Sampdoria remain 16th – only four points above the dreaded drop zone.
TALKING POINT – JUVENTUS HAVE THE MOMENTUM IN UNPREDICTABLE TITLE RACE
While the other clubs challenging for the Scudetto fail to find consistency, the Bianconeri have been quietly going about their business every week. They remain undefeated this calendar year and have now won six of their last 10 games, putting themselves in a position to seriously compete for the top honour.
Last defeated on their travels in October, their excellent away form has played an instrumental role in Juventus’ resurgence. This was another professional showing, even if it was far from vintage. After they got their noses in front, the three points looked secure.
They now turn their attention to Wednesday night’s huge Champions League last-16 second leg at home to Villarreal with the tie finely poised at 1-1.
MAN OF THE MATCH – ALVARO MORATA (JUVENTUS)
Kean deserves huge credit for his part in Juventus’ opening two goals, but Morata – having been left with scraps to feed off – finished the game with a brace and takes the award.
Sampdoria: Falcone 5, Bereszynski 6, Yoshida 5, Colley 4, Augello 5, Candreva 5, Rincon 6, Thorsby 6, Sensi 5, Caputo 5, Quagliarella 5.. subs: Sabiri 6, Giovinco 5, Trimboli N/A, Conti N/A.
Juventus: Szczesny 7, Danilo 6, De Ligt 6, Rugani 6, Pellegrini 6, Cuadrado 6, Locatelli 7, Arthur 6, Rabiot 6, Kean 7, Morata 8*.. subs: Vlahovic 6, De Sciglio N/A, Alex Sandro N/A
23′ – GOAL! SAMPDORIA 0-1 JUVENTUS (MAYA YOSHIDA OWN GOAL): And from nowhere Juventus take the lead! The visitors produce a rapid attack on the counter, Cuadrado is set free down the left and he’s looking for a team mate as he drills a low cross into the middle. Yoshida gets there first and it’s an awful moment for the defender as he slides it into his own net!
34′ – GOAL! SAMPDORIA 0-2 JUVENTUS (ALVARO MORATA, PEN): No mistake from Morata, who fires the penalty into the roof of the net. Two chances, two goals for Juventus. Game over already? Not quite.
74′ – PENALTY SAVE! Szczesny makes a strong one-handed save to deny Candreva! His Juventus team mates rush to congratulate their goalkeeper, what a big moment in this game!
84′ – GOAL! SAMPDORIA 1-2 JUVENTUS (ABDELHAMID SABIRI): Game on! Sabiri’s free-kick takes a wicked deflection and ends up in the corner of the net! This makes things very interesting!
88′ – GOAL! SAMPDORIA 1-3 JUVENTUS (ALVARO MORATA): Locatell’s cross to the back post finds Morata and Falcone can’t keep it out despite his best efforts!