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Juve Edge Past Milan While Roma Is Held

dybala-juveArgentina forward Paulo Dybala rescued a sedate Juventus with a well-taken second-half winner as the champions continued their Serie A fightback with a 1-0 win over AC Milan.

Milan travelled to Turin hoping to build on a recent purple patch that has seen Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men take ten points from their last four league outings. But despite causing the Turin giants problems, the Rossoneri had no reply to Dybala’s half-volley which beat Milan’s towering, teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma on 66 minutes.

Like all top-flight games in Italy this weekend, fans of both clubs were upstanding as the French national anthem, ‘La Marseillaise’, was played before kick-off to commemorate the victims of last week’s terror attacks in Paris. The French tricolour flag was on display on the pitch and on the big screens at Juventus, showing the faces of French players Patrice Evra, Paul Pogba and, for AC Milan, M’Baye Niang and Philippe Mexes during an emotional moment which brought applause throughout the stadium.

Evra, Pogba and Juventus team-mate Sami Khedira were passed ‘mentally fit’ to play a week after the explosions which rocked the Stade de France in Paris during the France and Germany friendly. However Khedira was left out of Massimiliano Allegri’s matchday squad and Evra hobbled off with an apparent ankle problem before the half-hour to be replaced by Alex Sandro.

Days before hosting Manchester City in a UEFA Champions League clash that could see Juventus into the last 16 of the competition, the Bianconeri looked nervous throughout a first half of few real chances.

“It wasn’t a good game,” Allegri said. “We struggled to find space in the first half but the team was solid. It wasn’t easy.” Juve’s win lifted them to sixth, one point above Milan and six behind leaders Fiorentina before the rest of the weekend fixtures. “It was important to win and hoist ourselves above Milan,” added the Juve coach.

Milan coach Mihajlovic admitted that, as a spectacle, there was little to like.

“It was an ugly match,” said the Serbian. “We did well defensively but did very little in attack. We can certainly do better.”

A Claudio Marchisio shot from distance saw Donnarumma get down low to save at his near post on 26 minutes and at the other end Alessio Cerci wasted a great chance for the visitors. Cerci ghosted in to the edge of the box completely on his own to meet Giacomo Bonaventura’s cross from the left flank but with only Gianluigi Buffon to beat the winger sent his free header across the six-yard line.

Hernanes, then Paul Pogba fired over for the hosts but the former was replaced for the start of the second half by Sandro as Allegri pushed the Brazilian and Swiss Stephan Lichtsteiner into the wing-back positions for a more effective 3-5-2. Milan threatened on 53 minutes when Juraj Kucka saw a glancing header go off target from a corner and on the counter Sandro cut in from the left side of the area only to fire wide of Donnarumma’s far post.

Donnarumma, who made his Serie A debut only last month and has since been tipped as the future successor to Buffon in the Italy team, did well to push Pogba’s drive to safety and from the corner the teenager came confidently out to punch the ball away. But the 16-year-old could do little when Dybala collected Sandro’s ball from the left flank, controlled and fired a half-volley into the net to send Juventus Stadium into raptures.

Earlier, Bologna striker Mattia Destro hit a last-gasp leveller from the spot to secure a share of the spoils in a rain-lashed 2-2 draw with former club Roma that the visitors’ coach, Rudi Garcia, compared to a game of “water polo with feet”.

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