Juventus coach Antonio Conte was hardly getting carried away after his side inflicted AS Roma's first Serie A defeat of the season with a 3-0 home victory on Sunday night that took the reigning champions eight points clear.
Goals by Arturo Vidal, Leonardo Bonucci and Mirko Vučinić, the last of those from the penalty spot soon after the dismissals in quick succession of Daniele De Rossi and Leandro Castan, allowed the Bianconeri to maintain their perfect home record and claim a tenth straight league win. "It's a result that puts us closer to the finish line but nothing definitive," Conte said. "It's an important but small brick as we build towards the Scudetto."
He explained his caution. "There's the entire second half of the season to play," the 44-year-old continued. "These eight points are important, but must not become an illusion which makes us lose concentration and desire, otherwise we will be in trouble. However, I am still surprised by our growth in terms of tactics and mentality. All the players help in attacking and defending, which is what pleases me most."
Roma started the campaign with ten consecutive victories but have now won only two of their last eight games. Still, Rudi Garcia is not ready to throw in the towel. "There are another 60 points available," the Roma coach said. "We played very well in the first half, in my view it was a matter of being clinical. Neither side had many chances, so you've got to take them when they arrive and Juve did that."
That is an opinion shared by Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon, who has conceded just one goal in the last ten Serie A matches. "Roma caused us many problems in the first half, they proved they are a really good side," the goalkeeper said. "They impressed me for an hour, so we cannot afford to let our concentration drop."
Sweet words for Conte. "The will to win is a life philosophy and I try to transmit it to my squad," the coach said. "Players like Buffon, Vidal and [Carlos] Tévez know what it means. They are all winners. Then there are other players who have begun to win with this squad. They have all realised it's great to win and want to continue doing so, but you always need great humility and hunger."
The scalp of Roma confirmed Juventus as Campioni d'Inverno – winter champions – as the Bianconeri will sit top of Serie A at the season's midway stage. If they keep playing with this spirit, it is difficult to imagine that Conte's men will fail to convert this symbolic title into a real one in May.
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