Cristiano Ronaldo's reliability from the penalty spot was once again a major factor for Juventus as the Portugal star's late brace of spot-kicks secured a 3-1 win at Genoa to spare the Bianconeri's blushes.
Ronaldo netted two penalties in midweek as Andrea Pirlo's men saw off Barcelona 3-0 in the Champions League and he repeated the feat again on his 100th Juve appearance at Stadio Luigi Ferraris to put down a resilient Genoa side.
Adrien Rabiot had a goal disallowed during the early exchanges of a generally tepid first half, though Juve did increase the pressure after the interval and made the breakthrough with Paulo Dybala's first Serie A goal of the season.
Former Juve midfielder Stefano Sturaro equalised and Pirlo's men looked destined to drop points for a sixth time this term, but hapless defending led to Ronaldo getting his double in the final 12 minutes.
400 - #CristianoRonaldo become the first player to reach 400 wins in the top-5 European League in 2000s. Lionel Messi is second in this ranking with 365 wins (Buffon third, 350). Winner.#GenoaJuve pic.twitter.com/otJ5vWuuzy— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) December 13, 2020
Juve briefly thought they had got off to a brilliant start as Rabiot bundled in at the back post following Leonardo Bonucci's header across goal, but celebrations were short-lived as he used his hand to guide the ball over the line.
Genoa otherwise did a good job of restricting Juve's flow of chances for the remainder of the first half, with the champions' only other moderately promising move in the 24th minute seeing Weston McKennie drag a shot wide as Ronaldo threatened to meet it at the far post.
Dybala eventually ended Genoa's resistance in the second half as he latched on to McKennie's flick-on from the right flank and jinked away from a defender before slotting into the bottom-right corner.
But Genoa swiftly levelled, Sturaro ghosting in at the back to tuck in Luca Pellegrini's teasing cross from a tight angle.
Juve had another goal wiped out just past the hour due to an offside in the build-up to Ronaldo's tap-in, but the former Real Madrid star was not to be denied from 12 yards, coolly slotting in to make it 2-1 winner after Nicolo Rovella's woeful attempt to tackle Juan Cuadrado in the box.
He then completed the scoring as a result of Mattia Perin clumsily fouling Alvaro Morata following a hospital pass into the area by Pellegrini.
What does it mean? Juve unspectacular but keep the positivity
Before Rovella's rather mindless chop-down of Cuadrado, Juve were facing the possibility of being nine points adrift of pacesetters Milan by the end of the day – assuming they beat Parma in the late kick-off.
After all, the Luigi Ferraris brings back bad memories for Juve, given they have lost here more often (six, three defeats apiece to Genoa and Sampdoria) than at any other ground since the start of 2011-12.
But their persistence – and Genoa's shoddy defending – saw Juve get the job done, with their unbeaten status for 2020-21 never looking in doubt.
Argentina international Dybala finally got off the mark in Serie A for the season and it was a lovely effort. But beyond that, he was a frequent threat to the Genoa defence, with his four key passes more than anyone else on the pitch.
Rovella puts Genoa under pressure
For what it is worth, Rovella had been fairly solid at the back for much of the match – his five interceptions not beaten by anyone else on the pitch. But his tackle attempt on Cuadrado for the first penalty was nonsensical and essentially ended Genoa's hopes of earning a point.
Key Opta facts
- For the first time in this Serie A, Juventus have won two games in a row. This was the match of the current championship in which the Bianconeri faced the fewest shots (three) and fired the most on target (10).
- Dybala scored in Serie A for the first time since July 4, 162 days ago. Six of his seven goals against Genoa have come away from home.
- Only Omar Sivori (84) and Felice Borel (80) scored more goals than Ronaldo (77) in their first 100 games played for Juventus. Sivori was the last Juve player to score 31 Serie A goals in a calendar year, back in 1961.
- Ronaldo has scored in all four Serie A matches against Genoa. In his career, only against one other club has he played more times (seven) and scored a goal in every match. That club is Juventus.
There is not much time for either team to dwell on this result, as Juve host Atalanta in a potentially tricky test on Wednesday, with Genoa welcoming Milan to the Stadio Luigi Ferraris the same day.