Juventus made it nine Serie A victories on the trot with this evening’s 1-0 away triumph over Atalanta at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia.
Alessandro Matri’s sensational first-half goal proved the difference between the two sides on a night when Antonio Conte took the opportunity to cast his eye over those who have featured less throughout the 2012/13 campaign.
As hinted by first-team coach Massimo Carrera in yesterday’s pre-match press conference, Juve’s manager made wholesale changes for the trip to Bergamo, deploying as many as nine new faces from last Sunday’s title-winning success over Palermo at Juventus Stadium.
The full-scale rotation, however, failed to alter the Bianconeri’s traditional approach to proceedings, with Emanuele Giaccherini, who hit the target the last time the teams met in Bergamo, spinning neatly away from his marker before drilling the ball into the arms of Andrea Consigli on three minutes.
With Juventus edging further into proceedings as the first half wore on, a superb piece of combination play between Andrea Pirlo and Matri enabled them to break the deadlock on 18 minutes. The midfield wizard’s raking forward pass was controlled to perfection by Matri, who maintained his composure to guide a left-footed shot beyond the grasp of Consigli.
Stung by the Bianconeri’s advantage, Atalanta went in search of an equaliser and almost produced an instant response when top scorer German Denis unleashed a fierce strike which flashed just wide of Marco Storari’s left-hand post.
The first half was marred by clashes between opposing supporters, forcing referee Marco Guida to bring a halt to proceedings while players and coaches from both sides sought to calm the trouble in the stands.
With order restored at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia, the Nerazzurri continued to place Conte’s men on the back foot and could have levelled matters when Denis crashed a fierce effort off the upright on 38 minutes.
An end-to-end second period got underway with Pirlo’s free-kick crashing back off the wall on 51 minutes, before Giacomo Bonaventura’s low drive from the edge of the area drew a straightforward save from Storari moments later.
Bonaventura resumed his personal duel with the Bianconeri shotstopper on 58 minutes, only to see his well-struck effort fisted away to safety.
The midway point of the second half provided the occasion for Conte to freshen up his attacking options, introducing Nicolas Anelka and Arturo Vidal to the action in place of Fabio Quagliarella and former Atalanta man Simone Padoin.
And the Chilean midfielder almost made an instant impact after a finding himself in a one-on-one situation with Consigli following a rapid Bianconeri break on the counter. The goalkeeper, however, got down well to prevent the visitors from tightening their grip on the three points.
The final minute saw Anelka’s purposeful break from deep fashion an opportunity for Giaccherini to put the result beyond doubt, only for the midfielder to slice his attempt into the side netting.
The result takes Juventus one step closer to surpassing Fabio Capello’s seasonal points record of 91, with wins required in the remaining fixtures against Cagliari and Sampdoria to round off a magnificent campaign in style.
ATALANTA 0-1 JUVENTUS
GOALS: Matri 18
Consigli; Scaloni, Stendardo, Canini; Raimondi (Giorgi 7), Carmona (Moralez 69), Cigarini, Biondini, Del Grosso (Parra 79); Bonaventura; Deni.
Substitutes not used: Polito, Capelli, Troisi, Ferri, Bellini, Contini, Brivio, Radovanovic, De Luca.
Storari; Caceres, Marrone Chiellini; Isla, Padoin (Vidal 69), Pirlo, Giaccherini, De Ceglie (Peluso 76); Matri, Quagliarella (Anelka 68).
Substitutes not used: Rubinho, Branescu, Bonucci, Lichtsteiner, Marchisio, Vucinic, Giovinco.
ASSISTANTS: Marrazzo, Fiorito
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Liberti
BOOKINGS: Pirlo 41, Stendardo 58, Cigarini 75