Bernardeschi returns to Fiorentina to secure a vital win in Juve's title chase
In yet another controversial match played in a heated atmosphere, Juventus defeated Fiorentina 2-0 on Friday to go to the top of Serie A.
The Viola seemed intent on making the difference and played a good first half and even hit the post, but things got even better when they were awarded a penalty and a chance to open the scoring when the ball hit Giorgio Chiellini's arm. After much deliberation and VAR consultation, the decision was reversed, leaving Fiorentina incensed.
In the second half, Juve reclaimed control of the match, utilising their experience and superior ability to control the opponent and score themselves. Unlike Fiorentina, they took their chances to earn all three points in a tough stadium.
One goal conceded in their past 16 matches, Juventus kept another clean sheet to stand them in good stead for the match against Tottenham Hotspur.
Juve have to learn how to overcome an opponent who knows how to apply pressure. Too often the team begins to struggle when they face intensity, losing their grip on the game. If they cannot remain composed, they will continue to be provoked into making mistakes.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Massimiliano Allegri celebrated his 200th game in charge of Juventus and secured his 11th consecutive victory in all competitions. The team could have played better but Juve took control of the match in the second half and Allegri managed the game well, changing formations to secure the result.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Gianluigi Buffon, 6 -- Wasn't called upon too often but decisive in stopping Cyril Thereau.
DF Stephan Lichtsteiner, 5 -- The player rose to stardom at Juve for his tactical understanding, always offering an outlet on the right. Did little of that against Fiorentina, offering practically nothing for the team going forward.
DF Mehdi Benatia, 6 -- Another excellent performance from the player who coped well under the pressure, intercepting the ball and stopping the opponent from making an impact.
DF Giorgio Chiellini, 6 -- He nearly conceded the penalty with his arm but more than made up for it by delivering the perfect through ball assist for Gonzalo Higuain. Did well to limit Giovanni Simeone.
DF Alex Sandro, 6 -- Yo-yo performance where you saw the best in him and the mistakes that can be provoked when the opponent pushed with intensity. Better at tackling than anyone else and cleared the ball out of dangerous areas.
MF Sami Khedira, 6 -- His presence was more discrete than usual but he was on hand to provide intelligent tactical running, covering the right spaces. However, he's capable of more and ought to have helped take a better grip of the game in the first half.
MF Miralem Pjanic, 6 -- Pjanic suffers in matches such as these and couldn't provide the control or geometric passes required to make a difference. Better in the defensive phase when he would win back possession and play it forward.
MF Claudio Marchisio, 6 -- While a great player, Marchisio couldn't offer the energy and dynamism Juve need in midfield, making Blaise Matuidi's absence felt. However, he used his intelligence to limit the spaces.
FW Federico Bernardeschi, 7 -- Made a consistent effort to win back the ball, to press the opponent and to make the difference. Used his emotions and the pressure of the atmosphere to his advantage, delivering a beautiful free kick to secure the opening goal.
FW Gonzalo Higuain, 7 -- Continuing his rich vein of form, Higuain wasn't helped effectively by the team but waited patiently for his chance and scored with clinical efficiency. Back to his best.
FW Mario Mandzukic, 5 -- Games like these expose Mandzukic's weaknesses. He couldn't make a difference against a side that required smart movement and precise actions. Instead he failed to make an impact in all areas and in both phases of the game.
DF Andrea Barzagli, 6 -- Came on to provide security and experience at the back to secure the result.
FW Douglas Costa, 6 -- His arrival on the pitch helped put Fiorentina under pressure. He provided extra support for the midfield, delivered neat balls forward and utilised his speed and dribbling skills to push Juve forward.
MF Rodrigo Bentancur, NR -- Came on and tried to push Juve forward in attack.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.