By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Editor
It was yet another dominant Juventus performance, and yet another occasion where one had the feeling it could all be wasted. Again, they racked up 20-plus shots. Again, they were ridiculously profligate.
But with the finishing line in sight, there is one man whose nerves of steel could well take the Bianconeri all the way while his team-mates continue to spurn chance after chance. Alessandro Del Piero’s winner against Lazio sent them back to the top of Serie A, but in some ways it was even more important than that.
|MATCH FACTS | Juventus 2-1 Lazio
Sometimes wins do more than just add three points to a club’s tally in the league table, they also send a message, and that was most definitely the case at Juventus Stadium last night. After AC Milan’s dogged victory from their sickbed on Tuesday, Juve needed to show that they can be unwavering in staying the course.Goals-against should not be the end of the world, but for a Juve side that have wasted so many chances this term, they become reasons to be fearful. A full 511 minutes on from their last goal conceded, the Bianconeri looked set to pay for their moment of sloppiness before the break, but Del Piero stepped in at the nick of time.
His goal, a free kick dragged across the face of the wall into the bottom corner, broke the stalemate brought about after Stefano Mauri’s header had cancelled out Simone Pepe’s opener. Before the club skipper struck, Juve had looked like they could waste their complete dominance of the game and lose their advantage in the title race. Instead, they now head the Serie A table once more and are six games from the Scudetto with five straight wins to their name.
Key to this run – their best of the season – has been Del Piero. With a late goal against Inter to seal the Derby d’Italia and now a winner against third-placed Lazio, he has added the cutting edge that has been missing for most of the season, and has done so just when you could forgive a side for wobbling.
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That the visit of the Biancocelesti was his 700th game in a Juventus shirt simply added a sense of theatre to the occasion, and he was happy to take the headlines and run with them. After 700 appearances, the 37-year-old has a maximum of seven remaining for the club. Told in October by president Andrea Agnelli and coach Antonio Conte that his contract will not be renewed, he has used the opportunities thrown his way over the last month to show why he is different to anything else available in their squad, yet the impasse continues.
Still there is no sign of a retraction of Agnelli’s statement. Still there’s no talk of a new deal. Instead, Del Piero is preparing to say his goodbyes to the club on May 20 by leading the side out at the Stadio Olimpico for the Coppa Italia final against Napoli. But surely, if he continues to contribute in the league and the Bianconeri step onto the pitch in Rome with the Scudetto back on their chests, the U-turn must come.In seven games time, Juventus could be double champions. Yet, had Del Piero not netted when he did last night, they would have been facing the prospect of sitting and hoping for a Milan slip-up once again. His contribution at this stage of the season cannot and should not be underestimated.
|DEL PIERO'S 700
After his goal against Inter last month, almost 96 per cent of Goal.com readers voted in favour of giving Del Piero a new contract. Wednesday’s winner only backs that opinion up further. Because that is the word for Del Piero too: winner.
Not since the Serie B title in 2007 have Juventus been winners, and the man who lifted aloft the trophy which signified their return to where they belong is now the man leading them back to the top. And while his decision six years ago not to desert the club in their hour of need was one made out of love for the badge, it is right now that he is giving Juventus their greatest reason to offer him a new deal.
It is time the club admitted they were wrong.Follow Kris Voakes on