TURIN (Reuters) - A wonderful winning goal from substitute Paulo Dybala sent Juventus back to the top of Serie A with a 2-0 victory over title rivals Inter Milan at an empty Allianz Stadium on Sunday.
Juve, who opened the scoring through Aaron Ramsey, lead on 63 points, one ahead of Lazio and nine clear of Inter in third, although Antonio Conte’s side have a game in hand.
Ramsey fired home the first goal from close range soon after the break and was also involved in the second.
Juventus’s Argentine forward Dybala exchanged passes with the Wales international on the edge of the area before dribbling around defender Ashley Young and showing great invention to find the bottom corner with the outside of his boot.
The game was played without fans present after the Italian government ordered that all matches are held behind closed doors until April 3.
“This is an important victory, but there are still 12 games to go so it’s a long road ahead,” coach Maurizio Sarri told Sky Sport Italia. “This was far more what I wanted to see from my Juventus.
“We had seemed a little empty and flat recently, so we had to choose players who could guarantee more energy, both physical and psychological. That’s the sensation we got in training from these players, but that could change in a couple of weeks.”
Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic returned from injury and they were grateful to have the Slovenian back as he blocked a Matthijs De Ligt header and showed quick reactions to palm away a Blaise Matuidi drive inside the opening 15 minutes.
The hosts had the better chances in a lively first half, but Marcelo Brozovic forced Juve keeper Wojciech Szczesny into a sharp save with a powerful drive before the break.
Juventus made the breakthrough 10 minutes into the second half when Matuidi’s cut-back was taken off the toe of Cristiano Ronaldo by Inter defender Alessandro Bastoni, only to fall into the path of Ramsey who drilled a shot home via a deflection.
Dybala was surprisingly dropped to the bench but made a huge impact after his introduction, controlling a long pass with his first touch before playing a one-two with Ramsey, dancing past Young and prodding in with a deft finish after 67 minutes.
Ronaldo aimed to make his mark on his 1,000th official game as he chased a Serie A record of scoring in 12 straight games and he came close in stoppage time as his shot swerved narrowly wide before he dragged a low effort beyond the far post.
The game marked Conte’s return to Turin after spells with Juventus as a player and coach, but it was not a happy one as his side fell to their second defeat of the season against the Italian champions.
“The difference between us and Juventus, not counting the game in hand with Sampdoria, is six points,” Conte said. “That’s the two defeats, at San Siro and here.
“We tried to stay in their slipstream, but must learn from defeat and take the lessons of comparison to grow in terms of character, quality and strength. It’s a loss that must help us to grow and understand how far away we are.”
Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Ken Ferris