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21 Apr 2013

Vidal penalty seals Juve triumph

The Chilean makes it three goals in six days with a second-half spot kick that settles a closely fought affair against Champions League chasing Milan

Arturo Vidal’s emphatic second-half penalty was enough to settle a hotly-contested clash with Milan and edge the Bianconeri even closer to Scudetto glory.

Clear cut chances were few and far between in an absorbing tactical battle of the Italian giants but Juventus made their golden opportunity count after Kwadwo Asamoah was sent tumbling in the box by Marco Amelia on 56 minutes.

And having maintained his composure to convert in the lion’s den of Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on Monday night, Vidal made it two penalties in the space of six days with an unstoppable strike that gave Amelia no chance.

Talk of revenge surrounded the pre-match build-up after the Rossoneri emerged victorious from this season’s first meeting of the sides at the San Siro. And the Bianconeri showed their determination to right the wrongs of November’s off-key display in Milan with an aggressive start to proceedings.

The first noteworthy attempt on goal, however, fell to Stephan El Shaarawy, recalled to Allegri’s starting line-up after sitting out last week’s 1-1 draw with Napoli. The Azzurri forward pulled the trigger on five minutes, but found Gigi Buffon equal to his well-struck drive from outside the area.

With the battle beginning to heat up, the next chance fell in favour of the hosts. Andrea Pirlo drew a fine stop from Christian Abbiati after his dipping free-kick clipped off the wall and careered menacingly towards the bottom corner.

The Bianconeri, operating in the same 3-5-1-1 formation pioneered against Lazio, grew in confidence and began to stream forward with intent.

Paul Pogba shot over from 30 yards on 11 minutes and was again in the thick of the action moments later, drawing appreciation from the crowd for an audacious bicycle kick which passed wide of the mark.

Milan edged back into proceedings as the first half wore on but were largely restricted to speculative attempts from range. Massimo Ambrosini dragged a low shot wide of the target, while El Shaarawy’s effort on the half volley was comfortably gathered by Buffon.

Their best opportunity of a combative first 45 minutes fell to the feet of Robinho, but the Brazilian forward could only find the side netting as he hooked Ignazio Abate’s low cross goalwards from an acute angle.

In search of their sixth consecutive Serie A success, Juventus went back on the offensive and Mirko Vucinic will feel he should have done better after failing to trouble Amelia, on in place of the injured Abbiati, with a headed effort from just outside the six-yard box.

The hosts emerged refreshed from the half-time break and almost broke the deadlock when Giorgio Chiellini rose highest in the box to meet Pirlo’s outswinging corner on 47 minutes, only for the recalled defender to see his bullet header flash fractionally over the crossbar.

Ten minutes later, Juventus were ahead. Asamoah’s tenacity to retrieve a loose ball in the area resulted in the midfielder being sent to ground by Amelia’s clumsy challenge. Luca Banti pointed to the spot, and Vidal did the rest with an inch-perfect strike that arrowed into the top corner.

The Bianconeri now had the bit between their teeth and pressed for a two-goal cushion. A flowing move involving Claudio Marchisio, Pirlo and Pogba crafted an inviting opportunity for Vucinic, with the Montenegrin frontman only prevented from extending the lead by Phillipe Mexes‘s impeccably timed last-ditch block.

Allegri’s men, approaching the encounter off the back of a 14-match unbeaten run, upped the tempo in their quest for an equaliser. Half-time substitute Sulley Muntari, introduced to proceedings in place of Ambrosini, let fly with a vicious attempt from the edge of the box which Buffon succeeded in taking the sting out of.       

But Juventus drew on all their determination to ride out a late Milan surge and make their dreams of back-to-back title wins an ever increasing reality.

The result sees Conte’s men regain their 11-point advantage at the top after Napoli momentarily reduced the gap with a stoppage time winner in this afternoon’s clash with Cagliari.

And with inter-city rivals Torino next up, Juventus will be hoping to crown a magnificent season in style with a derby day win at the Stadio Olimpico.


GOAL: Vidal 57

Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner (Padoin 81), Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, Asamoah (Peluso 90+2); Marchisio; Vucinic (Quagliarella 90).
Substitutes not used: Storari, Rubinho, Caceres, Marrone, De Ceglie, Isla, Giaccherini, Matri, Bendtner.
Manager: Conte.

Abbiati (Amelia 14); Abate, Zapata, Mexes, Constant; Montolivo, Ambrosini (Muntari 46), Boateng; Robinho (Bojan 71), Pazzini, El Shaarawy.
Substitutes not used: Narduzzo, De Sciglio, Yepes, Antonini, Bonera, Zaccardo, Traoré, Nocerino, Niang.
Manager: Allegri.

ASSISTANTS: Vuoto, Giallatini

BOOKINGS: Amelia 56, Zapata 66, Mexes 71