Carlos Tevez led by example in the absence of several key stars as injury-hit Juventus’ ominous march towards a 31st Serie A title continued with an unconvincing 2-0 defeat of Empoli on Saturday.
Juve were without a multitude of players due to injury, including Paul Pogba, Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo, but Tevez produced an all-action display in their absence to inspire Massimiliano Allegri’s side to all three points.
The Argentina international was a constant nuisance to the Empoli backline during the first half, though the visitors were successful in frustrating their hosts for over 40 minutes.
Juve’s breakthrough eventually came just before the break, Tevez slamming home an indirect free-kick from 10 yards to delight the home fans.
Empoli improved after the break and were only denied a 53rd-minute equaliser by GIanluigi Buffon’s fine one-handed save, as Juve’s hold of the midfield battle began to loosen.
The Italy goalkeeper came to Juve’s rescue again 19 minutes from time, before more fine work from Tevez led to substitute Roberto Pereyra adding a late second for Allegri’s side, who restored their 14-point lead at the summit following Roma’s win over Napoli earlier in the day.
Despite their injury woes in midfield, Juventus did not appear to have any problems dictating proceedings during the early exchanges, crafting the first chance after just five minutes.
Tevez was unsurprisingly at the fore, as he cut on to his right foot and curled a delicate effort towards the bottom-right corner, only for Luigi Sepe to turn it around the post.
Serie A’s top scorer was central to Juve’s next opportunity 14 minutes later, deceiving two defenders with a delightful feint on the edge of the area before seeing his eventual effort smothered by the advancing Sepe.
Juve remained utterly dominant and Daniele Rugani – who is set to join Allegri’s men in July – eventually presented them with a glorious opportunity from an indirect free-kick inside the penalty area after a 42nd-minute backpass.
Tevez duly smashed the ball beyond the helpless combination of Sepe and his wall, finding the roof of the net in emphatic fashion to break the deadlock.
Regardless of their dominance, Juve had to rely on goalkeeper Buffon to keep them ahead seven minutes into the second period, as Manuel Pucciarelli raced on to Mirko Valdifiori’s long pass and saw his header acrobatically tipped wide.
The match began to descend into a scrappy midfield battle as the hour mark approached, with neither side crafting much in terms of goal-scoring opportunities.
Juve had to count on the brilliance of Buffon again in the 71st minute, the veteran rushing out to tackle Pucciarelli before then denying the Empoli striker with a reaction save.
Arturo Vidal almost put the result beyond doubt with 80 minutes on the clock, stroking just wide of the bottom-left corner from 20 yards.
The Chilean then jogged off gingerly with a knock four minutes from time, to leave Allegri with another potential midfield injury concern.
But any late collapse was prevented by Pereyra, who tapped home in stoppage time after Sepe had parried another effort from the influential Tevez.
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