Juventus overcame goals in the first and last minutes from Sulley Muntari to claim a 3-2 victory against archrivals AC Milan in Turin on Sunday.
Juve, looking to move back within two points of Serie A leaders AS Roma, suffered an immediate setback when Muntari scored the fastest goal of the season so far after just 19 seconds.
But goals from Andrea Pirlo and substitute Sebastian Giovinco—who scored within a minute of his introduction—turned matters around for Antonio Conte’s side with 20 minutes remaining.
Milan defender Philippe Mexes was shown a red card following a foul on Giovinco and subsequent display of dissent in an indiscretion that was compounded when Pirlo hit the bar with the subsequent free-kick and Giorgio Chiellini powered home the rebound.
Juventus looked comfortable from that point onward until Muntari scored a deflected second in the final minute of normal time, but when Cristian Zapata headed over from a corner in the fourth and final minute of extra time, Conte and his men were finally able to celebrate.
Not for the first time this season, Juventus found themselves behind in a league encounter—but this time it took just 19 seconds. AC Milan kicked off and immediately pressed forward, with the ball eventually making its way to Robinho on the edge of the box.
The Brazilian unleashed a truly terrible attempt on goal but one that worked as a perfect pass to Muntari, who was lingering at the far post. Played on by the inattentive Asamoah, Muntari hit a first-time shot that caught Buffon by surprise and beat him at his near post.
The goal was not symptomatic of an impressive start to the contest, as from that moment both sides struggled to find their rhythm. Carlos Tevez showed some threat in attack, but Christian Abbiati was just about equal to any long-range attempts Juventus managed.
In the end, it was a former Milan player who grabbed the equaliser. After Tevez was fouled in the middle of the pitch about 25 yards out, Pirlo duly stepped up and curled a beautiful free-kick that beat the wall and Abbiati—although replays showed the goalkeeper perhaps should have kept it out.
Juventus, while marginally superior, continued to struggle to create clear-cut opportunities from open play, not helped by Arturo Vidal’s uncharacteristically subpar display. But the second half introduction of Paul Pogba seemed to change matters, as the Frenchman moved to right wing-back and proceeded to offer his side’s best attacking outlet.
It was Conte’s second substitute, however, who would give Juve the lead. Brought on in the 68th minute, Giovinco needed barely a minute to receive the ball on the edge of the box, showing remarkable poise to slip around Zapata’s challenge and fire an off-balance shot beyond Abbiati.
It was a moment of sublime skill to break the draw.
It soon got even better for Juventus. Giovinco was again at the heart of matters, wriggling free of Mexes’ attention 30 yards out and being brought down by the Frenchman. Mexes was booked for the foul but made the mistake of telling the referee exactly what he thought of the decision—earning an immediate second yellow and his marching orders.
Pirlo immediately stepped up and curled another great dead ball, although this one ricocheted away off the crossbar. Fortunately Chiellini was perfectly placed to prod home the rebound.
Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri reacted to those twin setbacks by withdrawing the ineffectual Robinho for a defender, Christian Zaccardo, in perhaps an indication of his hopes for a comeback.
But Milan did halve the deficit, with Muntari getting his second after robbing Pogba 35 yards out and unleashing a wicked drive that deflected into the bottom corner.
There was just time for one more chance but when Zapata’s desperate header veered wildly over a crossbar, Milan’s hopes of a point they would not have warranted were finally ended.
Arturo Vidal: B
Abject in the first half, Vidal was very impressive in the second half—helped undoubtedly by the presence of Paul Pogba, playing out of position on the right. As the team's fortunes rose with Vidal's, it only seemed to underline his importance to the team.
Philippe Mexes: D
Mexes was generally competent against the likes of Tevez and Fabio Quagliarella, but the central defender seemed preoccupied with his individual battle with Chiellini at times—even seeming to throw a punch at his opposite number at one corner. The Frenchman really let his side down with his dismissal, which cost his side any real chance they had of getting something from the contest.
Juventus are once again just two points off pacesetters AS Roma at the top of the table, alongside fellow Champions League side Napoli. But AC Milan have now slipped to 12th and have nearly two weeks off due to the international break to reflect on how to turn what appears to be a fairly mediocre (by the club's high standards) squad around.