Juventus stayed in contention for a fourth consecutive domestic double as Miralem Pjanic’s second-half penalty sealed a 1-0 win over Atalanta, closing out a 2-0 aggregate triumph in the Coppa Italia semi-final.
It was far from plain sailing for Massimiliano Allegri’s men, with Atalanta the better side early on before Alejandro Gomez struck the post, almost capitalising upon an uncharacteristic lapse from Gianluigi Buffon.
Gomez failed to convert a spot-kick in the initial encounter and saw an impressive display go unrewarded on this occasion.
Pjanic was booked in first-half stoppage time for diving in the area but, when a more clear foul was committed by Gianluca Mancini on Blaise Matuidi, he made no mistake.
Allegri will acknowledge this was not a display to live long in the memory but, with an absorbing title tussle between Napoli and Juve poised to go to the wire, his men took another step towards their latest piece of history.
Easy as you like from the spot for @Miralem_Pjanic. #JuveAtalanta#TIMCuppic.twitter.com/peqW9wIpbQ
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) February 28, 2018
Atalanta fell behind to a Gonzalo Higuain goal within three minutes in the first leg but made an enterprising start at the Allianz Stadium – three days on from heavy snowfall causing the sides’ Serie A meeting to be postponed.
Keen to make up from his first leg penalty miss, Gomez led the Atalanta charge and sent a dipping shot on to the roof of the veteran goalkeeper’s net.
The Atalanta captain’s playmaking skills were to the fore early on and he began a 13th-minute move before darting into the box and prodding Josip Ilicic’s cross too close to Buffon.
Matuidi almost got on the end of Pjanic’s dangerous free-kick, seemingly doing enough to rouse a lacklustre Juve start as Allegri’s men started to pin Atalanta back.
Etrit Berisha stood firm 10 minutes before half-time to deny Mario Mandzukic – starting at centre-forward in Higuain’s continued ankle-injury absence – and the visiting goalkeeper shovelled Douglas Costa’s curling shot to safety, having been partially unsighted.
Experienced midfielder Claudio Marchisio was the next Juve player to test Berisha early in the second period.
A steady stream of pressure from the Serie A champions appeared set to take the tie away from Atalanta but they almost levelled the aggregate score in remarkable circumstances after 64 minutes.
Gomez ran on to the ball 35 yards from goal and found Buffon inexplicably way out of his ground, lifting a shot beyond the stranded 40-yard-old that came back off the post.
Atalanta’s skipper then drilled a rasping effort over from the edge of the box before it was Costa’s turn to rattle the bar from similar range at the other end, with a sweetly struck left-footed attempt.
Juventus finally had their breathing space 15 minutes from time after Mancini needlessly pulled Matuidi to ground inside the box and Pjanic succeeded where Gomez failed from 12 yards.