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The Bianconeri left it late to move nearer to a first title since Calciopoli, with Kevin-Prince Boateng's late winner unable to put a dent in their charge for glory

COMMENT
By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Editor

It finally happened on Wednesday. More than three months after his signing from Roma had drawn so much negative attention, Marco Borriello scored his first goal for Juventus. But the man who has become something of a laughing stock around Turin couldn’t have picked a better moment to open his account, putting to an end to a frustrating evening for the Bianconeri as they came within 11 minutes of throwing AC Milan right back into the title picture.

Their clash with Cesena at the Dino Manuzzi didn’t get off to a great start. After Mirko Vucinic’s path to goal was halted by the hand of Vangelis Moras, Andrea Pirlo hit the foot of the post with the resulting penalty. With still 81 minutes to go and Juve dominant, it shouldn’t have turned out to be so costly but very nearly did.

MATCH FACTS | Cesena 0-1 Juventus

 Shots
 On Target
 Possession
 Territory
 Corners
 Bookings
CESENA
8
0
29%
37%
3
4
JUVENTUS
26
6
71%
63%
15
3

Like so many previous games this season, they were commanding but wasteful. Chances came and went, while all the while the Seahorses offered nothing. There wasn’t quite the fluency of movement at times as there has been during their current seven-match winning run, and it appeared that they may pay the price. As with most clashes between top and bottom, there was only ever likely to be one winner, but by the time Borriello entered the fray in the 74th minute it appeared as though Cesena may have managed to hold out for a sixth straight draw.

With time running out, fellow substitute Alessandro Del Piero crossed from the right, Vucinic headed back across goal, and Borriello lashed home left-footed. The relief was palpable, and while the home fans faced up to the certainty of Serie B football next season, Juve more than comfortably closed out the win to put themselves alongside Fabio Capello’s Milan in the annals on 34 unbeaten games in a single season.

And while they sit on a par with a previous incarnation of the Rossoneri, they have maintained their three-point lead over the current crop, after Massimiliano Allegri’s outfit also left it late to beat Genoa at San Siro.

A Grifone side who are in crisis at the moment, with significant fan unrest, fights between players, a third management change this season and sitting just a point above the dropzone, should not have been so tough to break down, but just as against Bologna at the weekend, Milan made hard work of doing so.

With Urby Emanuelson once more clueless as a trequartista, it was Stephan El Shaarawy whose moments of skill looked most likely to open the door in the first half, but the double substitution which would end the Italo-Egyptian’s involvement in the 50th minute would also lift the Diavolo’s game.

MATCH FACTS | Milan 1-0 Genoa

 Shots
 On Target
 Possession
 Territory
 Corners
 Bookings
 Red Cards
MILAN
13
3
61%
45%
9
3
0
GENOA
5
2
39%
55%
1
2
1
After the additions of Antonio Cassano and Kevin-Prince Boateng, the reigning champions upped the pace, and Genoa suddenly looked more vulnerable. Having spent much of their time passing balls back and forth in their own half, Milan began to have more of a say territorially, with a concerted period of pressure midway through the second half.

However, Sebastien Frey had had a relatively easy evening by the time news came through that Borriello had put Juve five points clear in the live table. As it stood, Milan were dead and buried. Until, that is, Boateng struck when Andreas Granqvist couldn’t cut out Emanuelson’s cross. With just four minutes left, the Ghanaian had ensured that their hopes would last at least a few more days.

There was a belief around San Siro that the gap was down to one after a roar went up around the terraces, with even Boateng believing Juve must have conceded an equaliser, but it was a false dawn. Both sides had left it late, but both got the job done.

The Rossoneri may have got back to winning ways, but Juve are one game nearer to glory. Antonio Conte’s men could be the champions of Italy by this time next week, with clashes against sides in the bottom three to be rounded out with a weekend trip to Novara and next Wednesday’s encounter with Lecce. They were far from their best at Cesena, but they will surely have to turn in even worse performances not to pick up two more wins in the next seven days. Whether they leave it late or not, they’re getting the job done.

They may have rescued a late win of their own, but Milan’s task continues to become steeper as Juve roll on.

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