Juventus maintained their seven-point lead at the top of Serie A as Gonzalo Higuain struck a brace in a 2-0 win at Cagliari on Sunday.
In Massimiliano Allegri’s 100th league game in charge of the club – at the home of the coach’s former side – Higuain’s ruthless finishing proved the difference for Juve.
This was a second away victory of the week for the reigning champions, having scored twice in the second half to beat Crotone on Wednesday, and they again recovered from a slow start in this match.
Cagliari matched the Bianconeri’s effort throughout, but allowed Higuain two clear opportunities and the Argentina international took them both.
If the opener, late in the first half, had dampened Sardinian spirits, a second strike just after the interval seemingly put the result beyond doubt.
Nicolo Barella was then dismissed for the home side for two bookable offences, and Allegri’s men ended the game hunting a third goal, with the crossbar the only thing preventing Mario Mandzukic from providing it.
5 – Gonzalo Higuaín has found the back of the net in each of his last five Serie A away games. Interrail. #CagliariJuve
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) February 12, 2017
Giorgio Chiellini was withdrawn with a knock in a scrappy opening period, but Juventus took their first chance when it finally arrived after 37 minutes.
Claudio Marchisio threaded a pass through the Cagliari defence and Higuain, previously marshalled so well, was away to lift a delicate finish over the advancing Rafael.
Then, with just two minutes of the second half played, Higuain doubled his tally.
Juan Cuadrado led a counter on the right flank, pushing the ball inside for Paulo Dybala, who in turn picked out Higuain to calmly prod into the bottom-left corner.
A half-chance for the hosts saw Marco Borriello lash high and wide from the left side of the area, while Mauricio Isla’s drive from distance also missed the target.
Any dwindling hopes of a comeback were then put to bed, though, as Barella, already booked for a challenge on Cuadrado, clattered into Miralem Pjanic and received his marching orders.
Gianluigi Buffon was still required to make a fine save at full stretch from Fabio Pisacane, before Mandzukic nodded wide on the break at the other end.
Higuain volleyed over on the turn, while Bruno Alves whipped a free-kick past Buffon’s left-hand post, before Juventus came agonisngly close to a third goal.
Mandzukic’s looping header bounced back out off the bar, with Rafael brilliantly parrying Dybala’s rebound, but it mattered little as the Bianconeri secured a third consecutive away win for the first time in the league this season.
Key Opta stats:
– The Bianconeri have conceded only once over their last eight league matches (against Fiorentina).
– Gonzalo Higuain has found the back of the net in each of his last five Serie A away games (seven goals).
– Since 2013-14, Higuain has scored at least two goals in 24 Serie A games (21 braces, three hat-tricks), at least 11 times more than any other player.
– Higuain has scored eight goals in 2017, more than any other player among the top-five European leagues.
– Cagliari have collected eight red cards so far, only Bologna (9) have more in this Serie A campaign.
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