Champions Juventus moved top of Serie A despite the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo after Miralem Pjanic’s second-half strike saw them come from behind to beat Brescia 2-1 on Tuesday.
A fourth-minute strike from Alfredo Donnarumma handed Brescia, who gave a debut to Mario Balotelli, an early advantage.
Maurizio Sarri’s team levelled shortly before the interval courtesy of Jhon Chancellor’s own goal before Pjanic’s stunning strike just after the hour mark.
The victory sees Juve leapfrog Inter at the Serie A summit as they continued their unbeaten start – and the result was all the more impressive given they did so without star man Ronaldo, who was left out as a precautionary measure with an adductor problem.
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All the talk was of Balotelli’s debut before kick-off, yet it was his strike partner Donnarumma who gave the home side a surprise early lead.
Sandro Tonali was the chief architect as he led a break down the left channel before the ball was switched sideways via Romulo to Donnarumma, whose driven strike had plenty of power but should have been kept out by Wojciech Szczesny.
Balotelli forced the former Arsenal goalkeeper into action with a thunderous long-range free-kick which the Poland international had to fingertip over his crossbar.
Juve always looked a threat, however, and eventually they pulled level five minutes before half-time when Chancellor inadvertently diverted Paulo Dybala’s corner beyond goalkeeper Jesse Joronen.
Joronen came to the home side’s rescue eight minutes after the restart when he superbly thwarted Gonzalo Higuain’s from close range and Chancellor went some way to atoning for his own goal when he superbly hooked Adrien Rabiot’s goal-bound effort off the line.
Eventually, the goal came, however. Having been fouled 20 yards out, Dybala saw his free-kick ricochet off the ball into the path of Pjanic, who arrowed a low shot into the bottom-left corner.
What does it mean?
Juve are yet to fully hit their stride, yet this was a hard-earned three points early on in their quest to claim a ninth successive Serie A title. Inter’s perfect start suggests they may not have it all their own way as much as in previous seasons.
Ronaldo absence felt by Juve
Any side in the world would miss the Portugal star and that was the case here as Sarri’s team laboured to victory. With success in the Champions League a clear priority, there are likely to be other such tests they will have to come through in his absence at points in the campaign.
Enigma Balotelli must sharpen up
There was enough evidence here to suggest Balotelli, a close-season arrival on a free transfer from Marseille, can emerge as a key man for his hometown club this season. Yet, given his lack of recent football, it was perhaps no surprise the ex-Manchester City and Inter forward still looks in need of some sharpening up both with his fitness and finishing. His biggest threat was from set-pieces.
Key Opta Facts
– Juve have won 12 of the 13 Serie A games in which Pjanic has found the net.
– Pjanic has scored 10 of his 11 most recent Serie A goals from outside the box. No one in Serie A has scored as many from beyond the perimeter of the area since the start of the 2016-17 (10).
– Juve have benefited from the most own goals scored by opponents in the current Serie A campaign (two out of five total own goals).
– Donnarumma is the first Italian player to score at least four goals in his first five Serie A games since Dino Fava in 2003-04.
Juve host a struggling SPAL side on Saturday, while Brescia travel to another high-flying team, Napoli, the following day.
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