MILAN: Argentinian Paulo Dybala staked his claim for a regular starting spot at Juventus after a superb individual display as the stuttering champions beat 10-man Atalanta 2-0 to claim just their third win of the season. Dybala, signed in a 32 million-euro ($35.2m) deal in the summer, had recently been advised by the president of his former club Palermo, Maurizio Zamparini, to move on after failing to nail down a regular starting place in Turin.
After this performance Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri was keen to reassure the 21-year-old striker he has a bright future at the club, but defended his decision not to start him in every game. “He played well today,” Allegri told Mediaset. “He’s come from Palermo, with all due respect, but playing in Sicily is different. “He was a leader (there), but here we can’t put too much responsibility on his shoulders. “Our game is totally different compared to the one played by Palermo. He’s only 21, and still has technical, tactical and physical improvements to make.” Dybala had started only four times for Juventus this season but, as the defending champions stumbled from one disaster to the next, was one of the team’s few bright lights. He scored in three of his four previous starts but, following the return from injury of Alvaro Morata and Mario Mandzukic, had recently fallen out of favour.
On what was his first start since he struck a penalty in a 3-1 win over Bologna at the start of October, Dybala proved the inspiration as Juve overwhelmed Atalanta to begin what fans will hope is their definitive climb back up the table. Dybala broke the deadlock on 28 minutes when he collected Paul Pogba’s short delivery outside the area to wrong-foot Marco Sportiello with a fine curling drive. Notably, it was the first time the Bianconeri have scored inside the opening half-hour of a league game this season. Dybala should have doubled Juve’s lead on the stroke of half-time but Sportiello blocked with his legs after the Argentinian met Patrice Evra’s cutback from the left byline with a smart first-timer.
Four minutes after the restart Dybala beat his marker deep on the left to deliver a low ball in for Mandzukic to tap home from close range. Atalanta were reduced to 10 men with 20 minutes remaining after Rafael Toloi saw red for a second bookable offence. Dybala won a penalty for the hosts on 80 minutes after he was up-ended by Gabriel Paletta on the edge of the area. Pogba stepped up with a chance to put the game beyond all reach, only to see his tame effort blocked by Sportiello before being cleared. Juventus moved up to 12th place to sit six points behind leaders Fiorentina, who will lose top spot to Roma in the event of defeat to the Giallorossi later on Sunday.
There was joy, too, at the San Siro as AC Milan ended a three-game winless streak with a 2-1 win over 10-man Sassuolo thanks to Luiz Adriano’s header four minutes from time. Carlos Bacca broke the deadlock on the halfhour from the penalty spot after he had been upended by goalkeeper Andrea Consigli, who saw red and was replaced by Gianluca Pegolo after Sassuolo coach Eusebio Di Francesco sacrificed Antonio Floro Flores. Sassuolo were back on level terms eight minutes after the restart when Domenico Berardi curled a free-kick over the defensive wall to wrong-foot goalkeeper Gianluca Donnarumma, who was making his Serie A debut at 16 years and 242 days old. Milan looked to be heading for a share of the spoils only for Adriano, who replaced Andrea Poli on the hour mark, to find himself in the right place at the right time at a corner on 86 minutes to head past Pegolo. Earlier yesterday, Italy striker Eder scored his seventh goal of the season as Sampdoria beat Verona 4-1, while Udinese beat Frosinone 1-0. Lazio host Torino and Napoli visit Chievo in the day’s other matches. —AFP