TURIN (Reuters) – Manuel Locatelli struck late to earn Juventus a 1-0 win over Torino in the Turin derby on Saturday, as the Old Lady stretched their winning run to four games in all competitions and kept a Serie A clean sheet for the first time in seven months.
The Italy international fired a shot in off the post with four minutes remaining, his second consecutive league goal, as Juve rose to eighth place with 11 points, three ahead of their 11th-placed rivals.
“I think over the last few weeks the team has found the right spirit, the desire to defend when we need to defend and attack when we need to attack,” Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri told DAZN.
“It would have been a disappointment to not win a game after this performance which, after the first half against Milan, was our best of the season.”
Torino controlled the first half as Juve failed to register a shot on target, but Allegri’s side improved after the break and Alex Sandro’s header required a fine save from Vanja Milinkovic-Savic before Locatelli’s late winner.
Ivan Juric’s side struggled to threaten Wojciech Szczesny’s goal, and Juventus kept things tight defensively to end a run stretching back to March of 20 matches in a row conceding in Serie A.
Locatelli’s second goal for Juventus sparked big celebrations, but the 23-year-old explained that they came at a cost.
“I got a headbutt from Giorgio Chiellini and with the head that he has, I am sure that I have a bruise,” Locatelli said.
“But it is a fantastic feeling, because since I arrived here the group has been incredible, they welcomed me. We are a big group of friends and real people, despite having a lot of great players they are all humble.”
Allegri’s side earned an impressive and unexpected win over European champions Chelsea in the Champions League on Wednesday to stretch their unbeaten run in all competitions to five matches.
But the coach warned his players that the local derby would be an even greater challenge, with strikers Paulo Dybala and Alvaro Morata still injured and Torino having two extra days to prepare.
There were early chances for Juve as Moise Kean flashed a shot wide and Weston McKennie blasted over a promising opportunity.
But Toro soon gained control and came close when Sasa Lukic glanced a header wide and Rolando Mandragora’s long-range piledriver was parried by Szczesny.
Allegri introduced Juan Cuadrado for Moise Kean at halftime, with Federico Chiesa returning to the striker role he played against Chelsea.
The change sparked some life into Juve’s attack as the Colombian teed up Sandro with an excellent cross that required a sharp Milinkovic-Savic save.
Locatelli found space at the edge of the area to fire home the winner in the 86th minute, before substitute Dejan Kulusevski thumped the foot of the post with a shot in stoppage time.
Earlier on Saturday, Salernitana climbed off the foot of the table after Milan Djuric’s header sealed a 1-0 win over Genoa, their first victory of the season.
The newly promoted side’s victory moved them up to four points, one behind Genoa in 16th and one more than bottom side Cagliari.
(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Christian Radnedge)