A ruthless second-half display enabled Juventus to sign off 2013 on a high with this afternoon’s 4-1 win over Atalanta at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia.
After Bianconeri frontman Carlos Tevez had shot Antonio Conte’s men in front on six minutes, Maximiliano Moralez’s leveller brought the visitors down to earth and paved the way for a fast paced, evenly-contested conclusion to an entertaining first half.
But any hopes the Nerazzurri had of defying the odds by registering their first win over Juventus in 18 Serie A meetings were soon dealt a major blow as Paul Pogba restored the advantage just seconds after the start of the second half.
Putting the final outcome beyond any doubt were Fernando Llorente and Arturo Vidal, who both struck in the closing stages to maintain the Bianconeri’s five-point supremacy over Roma at the top of the table.
After making wholesale changes for the midweek Coppa Italia clash with Avellino, there were no surprises in the Juventus starting line-up as Conte elected to field his strongest starting XI for his side’s final game of the calendar year.
Returning in attack were Llorente and Tevez and the latter, who scored a hat-trick in his last league outing against Sassuolo, took just six minutes to extend his recent renaissance in the final third.
Gathering a deflected Vidal pass outside the area, Tevez shielded the ball from challenging Atalanta bodies before gaining a yard of space and firing across Andrea Consigli with a low shot that nestled gloriously in the bottom corner of the net.
Looking confident and enjoying plenty of space in forward areas, Juventus continued to attack but soon found themselves pegged back on 15 minutes after failing to adequately deal with a Nerazzurri corner.
As the ball broke clear of the area, Giacomo Bonaventura rode the challenge of Paul Pogba and cut back for Moralez, who brought an end to the Bianconeri’s eight-game run without conceding courtesy of a crisp drive beyond the outstretched Gigi Buffon.
Buoyed by their equaliser, Atalanta, roared on by a passionate home crowd, raised the intensity as they began to take the game to the reigning champions. Carlos Carmona had the home supporters on their feet when he unleashed a powerful 25-yard strike from outside the box which Buffon watched fizz away from his near post.
With the pace of the game reaching an almost frenetic level, Juventus strung together a neat sequence of play which could have produced one of the team goals of the season. Heading Marchisio’s sweeping cross back across goal was Pogba, only for Tevez to find himself a couple of yards off the pace at the crucial moment.
The Argentine had another opportunity moments later, clipping a lofted effort over the crossbar following another smart exchange of passes on the edge of the area.
However, Tevez’s best chance to double his individual tally came four minutes shy of the break when he latched on to Pogba’s threaded ball to go one-on-one with Consigli, only for the goalkeeper to force him wide just as he was about to pull the trigger.
Conte’s words during the interval appeared to have the desired effect as Juventus regained their advantage inside the opening 60 seconds of the restart.
Kwadwo Asamoah’s cross from the left flank was met by Llorente, who knocked down for Pogba to steer a low left-footed shot beyond Consigli, sparking wild scenes of celebration amongst the Bianconeri travelling faithful.
The Frenchman, now featuring as the fulcrum of the midfield three after switching positions with Marchisio, could have secured a three-goal advantage ten minutes later, skipping delightfully past Carlos Carmona on the edge of the area before placing his strike fractionally wide of target.
With the shackles lifted from his former holding role, Marchisio became an increasing presence in and around the area and went close to guiding Llorente’s centre home with a volleyed effort that flashed over the crossbar on 65 minutes.
The Spaniard, who had made a strong contribution to team play throughout without enjoying any particular chances of his own, then worked his way into a perfect goalscoring position after gathering Giorgio Chiellini’s pass and spinning Giulio Migliaccio, making no mistake with a crisp finish that put pay to any Nerazzurri hopes of a comeback with 15 minutes remaining.
Showing no mercy, Juventus went for the jugular and wrapped up a fine afternoon with a quick-fire fourth, Vidal joining a host of black and white shirts queuing up to turn Stephan Lichtsteiner’s low centre over the line.
The final result serves as the ideal end to a memorable 2013 and will give the Bianconeri plenty of confidence when approaching their crucial first appointment of the new year – a top-of-the-table clash against Scudetto challengers Roma.