Giorgio Chiellini admitted Juventus were indebted to goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny after they came from behind to snatch a 2-1 win at Lazio.
The hosts were the better side for the majority of the contest, with Szczesny forced into a string of fine saves to keep the Serie A leaders in the game.
But Juventus scored twice in the last 16 minutes, as Joao Cancelo and Cristiano Ronaldo’s late penalty cancelled out the lead Emre Can’s own goal had given Lazio.
Juventus remain unbeaten in Serie A and stretched their lead to 11 points, but Chiellini believed much of the display was their worst of the season.
“For 55-60 minutes it was certainly the worst Juventus performance of the season. Paradoxically, after their goal we found the mental energy more than the physical one to turn it around,” Chiellini told Sky Sport Italia.
“We’ve got players who make the difference. Wojciech Szczesny kept us afloat for an hour, then we managed to fight back and win the game. It has to help us mature, because we have another big game coming up on Wednesday in the Coppa Italia with Atalanta.
“We’ll see the real Juventus from February 20 (Champions League first leg), but it’s important to get the results before that too. We knew it would be tough against Lazio, as it always is.
“March 3 (against second-placed Napoli) will be a crucial date, there’s no denying it, and if we reach that with this advantage, it will be a great situation.”
Lazio were totally dominant in a first half which saw Juve fail to register a single attempt at goal, while the hosts forced Szczesny into five saves before the break.
The hosts continued their fine play into the second half and were deservedly in front as Can inadvertently nodded Luis Alberto’s corner into his own goal.
Ciro Immobile missed a great chance to double the lead when clean through, while Luis Alberto curled just wide.
Lazio were made to pay as Cancelo tapped in the rebound from Paulo Dybala’s shot before Cancelo was pulled down in the area by Senad Lulic and Ronaldo slammed in the penalty two minutes from time.
Lazio head coach Simone Inzaghi was proud of the performance of his players and felt they did not deserve to lose.
“This season I don’t recall in Italy or Europe seeing Juventus struggle that much. We had nine shots on target to three, so many corners. Football is cruel, we did not deserve defeat, but if we continue playing like that, we’ll make our fans happy,” the coach told Sky Sport Italia.
“I hugged all my players one by one at the final whistle, because they put in a fantastic performance. The only negative was the result.
“We should have made it 2-0, those chances with Luis Alberto and Immobile. It’s disappointing, but I am proud of this group and playing with this hunger, we will go far.”