Juventus 2-1 Lecce: Vlahovic volley boosts Bianconeri's top-four hopes
Dusan Vlahovic's fine volley saw Juventus end a five-game winless run with a 2-1 victory over Lecce in Serie A, boosting the Bianconeri's hopes of Champions League qualification.
Vlahovic fired home on the turn to hand Massimiliano Allegri's men their first league win since April 1, deciding an entertaining contest at the Allianz Stadium.
Leandro Paredes had earlier seen his terrific free-kick cancelled out by Assan Ceesay's penalty, while both teams had goals disallowed for offside in an open first half.
While Lecce continued to test the Bianconeri backline after the break, Vlahovic's first league goal since February 7 ultimately proved decisive, piling the pressure on Juve's rivals in a fascinating battle for a top-four finish.
Juve survived an early scare as Ceesay was caught offside when tapping home, but the Bianconeri hit the front in spectacular fashion after 15 minutes, Paredes bending his free-kick around the wall and into the bottom-left corner from 25 yards out.
Fabio Miretti thought he had his first senior goal 10 minutes later as he volleyed Nicolo Fagioli's dinked pass home, but a VAR review saw the Juve youngster ruled offside.
Juve then suffered two further blows as they lost Mattia De Sciglio to a serious-looking knee injury before Danilo's clumsy handball allowed Ceesay to level from the penalty spot.
However, Lecce were level for just three minutes as Vlahovic spun on Filip Kostic's left-wing cross, finding the bottom-left corner from near the edge of the area.
Miretti was guilty of a glaring miss when he prodded wide after the interval, before Danilo crashed a header against the right-hand post.
Wojciech Szczesny's reflex save denied Ceesay as Lecce threatened another equaliser, but Juve stood firm to leapfrog Lazio into second, ahead of their game against Sassuolo later on Wednesday.
What does it mean? Bianconeri stop the rot
When Juventus saw their 15-point deduction suspended and were propelled into third in Serie A recently, the Bianconeri looked destined to ease to a top-four finish in the season's closing weeks.
However, a return of just one point from their previous four league games saw Allegri's men enter Wednesday's match under huge pressure.
A timely end to Vlahovic's goal drought helped them get back to winning ways, but with a trip to Atalanta and a Europa League semi-final tussle with Sevilla on the horizon, Juve need to build on this result.
Vlahovic ends long wait
Vlahovic has endured a frustrating first full campaign in Turin. The Serbia international hit the net 24 times in Serie A last term, but the winner here was just his ninth league goal this season.
After netting the second of two goals against Salernitana in February, Vlahovic was made to wait 773 minutes of action for his next Serie A strike. Juve's top-four hopes could hinge on an uplift in his form.
Paredes pulls the strings
Paredes' brilliant opener represented Juventus' fourth direct free-kick goal of the Serie A season – more than any other team has managed in the top five European leagues.
The Argentina international was also crucial in open play, creating a team-high three chances for a Bianconeri side often accused of lacking inspiration.
Key Opta facts
- Juventus have won five of their last six home games in Serie A (L1). Since the beginning of February, only Sassuolo and Roma (both 16) have earned more home points than the Bianconeri in the top flight.
- Lecce attempted 14 shots in Wednesday's game. Since Opta began collecting this data in 2004-05, the Salentini have only matched that tally on one other Serie A trip to Juventus (also managing 14 in April 2005).
- Paredes has scored four direct free-kick goals in the top five European leagues, with Wednesday's effort his third in Serie A. His last free-kick goal came for Paris Saint-Germain in April 2021 (v Strasbourg in Ligue 1).
- Vlahovic is one of just two players born since January 1, 2000 to have already scored 60 goals in the top five European leagues. Erling Haaland is the other, with 96.
- And Vlahovic has also scored 12 goals in his last 13 games against newly promoted sides in Serie A.
- Ceesay has scored three of his six league goals this season against teams currently inside Serie A's top seven, in Juventus, Inter and Atalanta.
Juventus travel to Atalanta for their next Serie A fixture on Sunday, while Lecce face a relegation six-pointer against Verona on the same day.