Juventus down Sampdoria for 12th successive win
Juventus clinched a 12th successive win and restored their eight-point lead over Roma at the top of Serie A on Saturday with a 4-2 success over a battling Sampdoria.
Despite resting Andrea Pirlo and Leonardo Bonucci ahead of Tuesday's Italian Cup quarter-final against Roma, Juve were 3-1 up at the break and seemingly cruising.
But Sampdoria rallied in the second half, cutting the deficit to 3-2 before Paul Pogba scored a spectacular late goal to secure the three points for the champions.
Antonio Conte's side restored their eight-point lead over Roma, but the Juve coach wasn't entirely satisfied with a win that allowed the champions to equal the previous record for successive wins established in the 1928-29 season.
"We played a good game against a tough side that put us in difficulty at times, and for that we're happy," said Conte, who praised Fernando Llorente for scoring his eighth goal of the campaign.
"We'd prepared for and interpreted the game just as we'd planned to, but otherwise it would have been difficult for us to beat a Sampdoria side in top form. We need to be more focused."
Sampdoria coach Sinisa Mihajlovic took his hat off to the hosts.
"We can only applaud Juve, who made the difference in the opening 25 minutes with their pace. They were superior to us," said Mihajlovic.
"But the lads kept their heads up and kept pressing. We played as a team throughout."
Arturo Vidal gave the leaders an 18th-minute lead in the Turin rain after latching on to a Pogba pass to beat Junior Da Costa in the Sampdoria goal.
Llorente quickly made it 2-0 with a powerful downward header before Carlos Tevez rattled the post with a thunderous drive.
Sampdoria, who lost to Juve on the opening day of the season, pulled a goal back on 38 minutes when Andrea Barzagli, back from suspension, put through his own goal as he tried to cut out a dangerous cross from Manolo Gabbiadini.
However, it was a brief respite for Sampdoria as Juventus restored their two-goal lead three minutes later when Vidal converted a penalty awarded after had had been brought down by Vasco Regini.
To their credit, Sampdoria hit back again when Gabbiadini beat Gianluigi Buffon from close range in the 69th minute before the same player saw a fierce drive come back off the Juve crossbar.
But the impressive Pogba unleashed a 20-metre screamer in the 78th minute to seal the win.
Earlier Saturday, first-half goals from Mattia Destro and Kevin Strootman, and a late strike from Adem Ljajic secured a 3-0 win for Roma that sent Livorno back to the bottom of Serie A.
Livorno, who won promotion from Serie B last season, responded to their struggles in the first half of the campaign by sacking coach Davide Nicola last Monday after the side had taken just a point in their last eight games.
Successor Attilo Perotti, however, failed to come up with a magic formula at the Olympic Stadium, where Roma coach Rudi Garcia felt confident enough of a win to rest a host of regulars.
Destro pounced on a backheel flick from Gervinho to beat Francesco Bardi in the visitors' net on six minutes, with Strootman adding a second just after the half hour.
Roma continued to pile on the pressure in the second half but it took until the 78th minute for Ljajic to add his name to the scoresheet after collecting a pass from Nainggolan.