Match Report: Honours even against Atalanta

Juventus are made to settle for a 2-2 draw in Bergamo after Atalanta score an 89th-minute equaliser on Friday night

The Bianconeri were held to a 2-2 draw on Friday night, Dani Alves’ 83rd-minute goal ultimately not enough to clinch victory after Remo Freuler equalised at the death for a spirited Atalanta side.

That dramatic finale followed a hard-fought contest in which Juve had clawed themselves from behind, following Andrea Conti’s opener on 45 minutes, to a winning position due to Leonardo Spinazzola’s own goal shortly after the break and Dani Alves’ fine header from Miralem Pjanic’s pinpoint cross.

As the three points looked to be heading back to Turin, Nerazzurri midfielder Freuler tapped home on the counter-attack to leave Massimiliano Allegri’s league leaders nine points above second-placed Roma before the Giallorossi take on Lazio in the derby this Sunday.

Heading into tonight’s clash, Juve knew they faced a tough match from fifth-placed Atalanta and that’s what they got as a well-organised home outfit limited the Bianconeri to very few first-half opportunities.

Volleys from Gonzalo Higuain, blocked by Nerazzurri keeper Etrit Berisha, and Juan Cuadrado, whose shot flew wide of the far post after the Colombian had latched onto Giorgio Chiellini’s cultured cross from the left, were the closest that the visitors came to taking a lead into the interval.

Down the other end meanwhile, the hosts had chances of their own as Gianluigi Buffon gathered close-range efforts from Freuler and Alejandro Gomez before Conti handed Atalanta the advantage with the last kick of the half. The right-sided wing-back turned in Gomez’ cross at the far post just seconds after Chiellini had done well to dispossess Jasmin Kurtic inside the box.

Whatever Allegri told his players at the break, it seemed to work to the letter, as they came out for the second period firing on all cylinders and their pressure instantly paid off with a 50th-minute equaliser, Spinazzola putting Pjanic’s free-kick into his own net while under severe pressure from Leonardo Bonucci.

Back on level terms, the Bianconeri could sense a winner. Sami Khedira might have been celebrating a sixth goal of the season after unleashing a ferocious drive from distance, but Berisha was equal to it, tipping the ball over the crossbar, and the Albanian stopper was called into action again shortly afterwards to parry Higuain’s prodded effort from just a matter of yards out.

As the match entered its final seven minutes, few could have predicted a goal for both teams before full-time, but that is what happened and, in Juve’s case, it came in quite spectacular fashion too. Pjanic, who’d recently come close to scoring from a free-kick, whipped in the most inviting of crosses for Dani Alves to head in expertly at the near post.

Victory was now within grasp, but tired legs seemed to kick in for the visitors and Atalanta were in no mood to give up just yet. In the very last minute of regulation time, a swift counter-attack led to Freuler flicking over Buffon and in to leave the Bianconeri disappointed, but not dismayed: after all, Allegri and company remain in pole position for what would be an unprecedented sixth straight Scudetto.

Next up however, there’s the small matter of a Champions League semi-final against Monaco, the first leg of which takes place on Wednesday night at the Stade Louis II in Monte Carlo.