Juventus conceded a goal after just 19 seconds then recovered to beat AC Milan 3-2 Sunday and remind the rest of Serie A that they intend to win a third straight Italian league title.
Juve had come away with draws from their three biggest matches thus far this season, against Inter Milan in the league and vs. FC Copenhagen and Galatasaray in the Champions League, but the Bianconeri were in far better form this time – save for the first and last minutes.
Napoli also stayed within striking distance of Serie A leader Roma with a comfortable 4-0 win over promoted Livorno.
Juventus and Napoli are both two points behind Roma, who face Napoli after the break for national team fixtures.
In Turin, Milan midfielder Sulley Muntari took advantage of an errant shot from Antonio Nocerino to deflect the ball in with one touch in the match’s first chance.
Andrea Pirlo equalised in the 15th with a curling free kick that appeared to surprise Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati. Out of respect for his former club, Pirlo did not celebrate.
Milan defender Philippe Mexes punched Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini in the 50th as the players jockeyed for position inside the area. The referee did not see what happened but TV replays will likely be used to hand Mexes a lengthy ban.
Sebastian Giovinco gave Juve the lead in the 69th, dribbling past two defenders before beating Abbiati with a precise shot two minutes after he came on for Fabio Quagliarella.
As luck would have it, Mexes was sent off for his second yellow card in the 74th and Chiellini scored in the 75th with a rebound of another free kick from Pirlo that bounced off the crossbar.
Muntari pulled one back for Milan in the 90th with a long shot that was deflected by Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci, leaving goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon fuming.
Milan, who were without the suspended Mario Balotelli, nearly equalised in added time but Cristian Zapata’s header from a corner sailed high.
In the other late kickoff, Lazio and Fiorentina played out a scoreless draw.