The Serie A leaders appeared to be cruising to victory in Verona, after fine strikes from Alessandro Matri and Stephan Lichsteiner, but Cyril Thereau set up a tense finishJuventus restored their three-point advantage at the summit of Serie A with a battling 2-1 victory over Chievo at the Marc'Antonio Bentegodi on Sunday.
The reigning champions took the lead early on with a stunning volley from Alessandro Matri, before doubling their advantage just before the break after Stephan Lichsteiner fired home at the end of a deadly counterattack.
Cyril Thereau dragged the hosts back into the game when he fired home shortly after half-time, but Juve held on to put some daylight between themselves and second-placed Napoli.
The Bianconeri went into the game a side under pressure, having seen the Partenopei draw level with them at the top of the table by defeating Catania the night before. In addition, the champions were also without coach Antonio Conte and defender Leonardo Bonucci through suspension, with the pair banned for their hostile reactions to last weekend’s draw at home to Genoa.
However, this Juventus side has proved to be a resilient beast over the past year or so, and they began brightly in Verona, taking the lead just 10 minutes in with a sublime strike. Arturo Vidal pounced on a loose ball some 30 yards from goal, before lofting a wonderfully weighted pass in behind the Chievo defence, that Matri finished off with a crisp left-footed volley.
It could so easily have been 2-0 moments later, but Giovinco dragged his shot wide after a well-worked one-two with strike partner Matri. Chievo, meanwhile, threatened for the first time midway through the first half when Luca Rigoni prodded the ball through for Alberto Paloschi, but the latter’s effort on goal was easily saved by Gianluigi Buffon.
Buoyed by that break, the hosts began to take more risks but this left them increasingly exposed at the back, and their enterprise was brutally exploited by the Bianconeri just before the break. Matri was again involved, advancing into the area before pulling the ball across the box for Giovinco, who showed tremendous awareness in backheeling the ball into the path of the supporting Lichsteiner. The Swiss had been denied by Christian Puggioni just moments before, after being put in on goal by Andrea Pirlo, but the wing-back made no mistake this time around, lashing the ball into the top right corner.
A rout appeared a distinct possibility as the sides left the sun-drenched field at half-time, but Chievo returned a side transformed after the interval and halved their deficit on 52 minutes when Thereau found the bottom left corner of the Juve goal, after the ball had dropped nicely for him on the edge of the area.
The Old Lady suddenly looked ruffled but, guided by Andrea Pirlo, they quickly regained their composure and ultimately dealt quite comfortably with everything Chievo threw at them in the final half hour to collect three precious points.