It was harder than Juventus would have liked, but Massimiliano Allegri’s side won 2-0 at relegation-threatened Crotone to restore its seven-point lead in Serie A on Wednesday.
Juventus struggled to break Crotone down before goals from Mario Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain in the second half.
“Seven points don’t mean anything. The season is still long, we still haven’t done anything,” Allegri said. “Being seven points ahead is significant and not significant. We still have to win many games, you can’t win the league with 86 points.”
The match had been rescheduled from December 22 because Juventus was involved in the Italian Super Cup, which it lost on penalties to AC Milan.
It took until the 23rd minute for Juventus to have its first shot on target when Paulo Dybala’s effort was saved by Crotone goalkeeper Alex Cordaz.
The visitors went even closer on the stroke of halftime when Cordaz parried Marko Pjaca’s header and Dybala’s follow-up was cleared off the line by Gian Marco Ferrari.
Juventus kept calm and eventually got the breakthrough on the hour when Cordaz parried Kwadwo Asamoah’s header and Mandzukic rushed in to slot home from a tight angle.
Miralem Pjanic was brought on in the 70th minute for Sami Khedira and he set up Juve’s second four minutes later, finding Tomas Rincon who sent a delightful ball through for Higuain to round Cordaz and deposit into the far corner.
Pjanic almost got on the scoresheet himself five minutes from time but his volley came back off the crossbar.
BOLOGNA 0, AC MILAN 1
Milan had to play more than half an hour with nine men following two red cards but Mario Pasalic’s last-gasp goal saw it snatch all three points at Bologna.
Pasalic was left with the easiest of finishes in the 89th minute after Gerard Deulofeu, who was in inspirational form, beat one Bologna defender and slipped the ball through the legs of another to set up the Croatia midfielder from inside the area.
Gabriel Paletta was sent off in the 37th minute for two yellow cards and Juraj Kucka followed him in the 59th after two bookings in six minutes.
“It was an incredible night,” Deulofeu said. “Already with one player less we knew that we could do it and even when we were down to nine. These three points are worth double.”
Milan had won only one of its previous seven Serie A matches and fallen from the Champions League spots to seventh place. It is now eight points behind third-placed Napoli, which beat Bologna 7-1 at the weekend.
“There are moments in a season in which you have to show something extra and today we did that,” Milan coach Vincenzo Montella said. “We showed the spirit of this team and I think we deserved this win.
As for the chances of victory with nine men, Montella added: “Honestly, I didn’t think we’d do it. But their attitude was amazing and in the end we were rewarded.”
Bologna had its best chance in the 65th but Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who turns 18 later this month, pulled off a fantastic save to deny Ladislav Krejci.
His opposite number, Angelo Da Costa, did well at the other end shortly afterward to keep out Pasalic’s effort from point-blank range. Pasalic had been set up by Deulofeu and the Spain midfielder almost scored directly from the ensuing corner, curling it onto the crossbar.
“It’s the worst moment of the season, but it should give us the desire to bounce back,” Bologna coach Roberto Donadoni said. “It happened, there’s little to complain about. It’s right that I assume the responsibility, now I have to help the group get out of this situation.”
Milan will be left counting the cost of victory, however, as its injury crisis deepened with Alessio Romagnoli limping off in the first half.
It is already without Luca Antonelli and Mattia De Sciglio for around a month, while Giacomo Bonaventura has been ruled out for the rest of the season.
Paletta and Kucka will now face bans, leaving it struggling for Monday’s trip to fourth-place Lazio.