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09 Dec 2012

Lichtsteiner seals winning return for Conte

The Swiss full-back welcomes Antonio Conte back to the dugout by hitting the winner in a closely-fought encounter with Palermo. 1-0 the final score in Sicily

Stephan Lichtsteiner’s second-half goal against Palermo made it a winning return to the Bianconeri dugout for Antonio Conte.

Juventus were full value for the three points at the Renzo Barbera but were made to wait until five minutes after the restart before making their dominance count.

Further chances came and went as the visitors were left to rue their misfortune in front of goal, but Conte will take heart from his side’s spirited display on the back of Wednesday’s energy-sapping victory over Shakhtar Donetsk.

For the trip to Sicily, Conte restored Marchisio to the starting line-up following the midfielder’s midweek European suspension and brought in Matri to operate alongside Vucinic in place of the suspended Giovinco.

Heavy rainfall in the local region prior to kick-off looked to pose a threat to the Bianconeri’s customary slick passing game, and Palermo aimed to take full advantage in a lively opening period.

Kurtic registered the first shot on goal which was beaten away on 11 minutes, while Barzagli was forced to make a last-ditch block moments later as Iliic swivelled dangerously in the area.

Having seen a well-executed Miccoli finish ruled out for offside, Juventus raised their game and put the Rosanero under a significant spell of pressure. Marchisio had the first meaningful attempt on the half-hour mark, curling a right-footed shot over the bar after receiving the ball on the edge of the area.

This paved the way for a frenzied finish to the first half, with Vucinic a lick of paint away from putting the Bianconeri in front after instinctively following up Marchisio’s blocked effort on 37 minutes.

Matri, recalled to the side following a lengthy spell on the substitutes bench, also went close to finding the target after Vidal’s fine cross split the Rosanero rearguard. Ujkani, however, was quick off his line to make a smart stop.

A few choice words from Conte at the break saw Juventus reemerge with an added spring in their step. Vucinic immediately suffered the same fate that befell him in the first period, striking the post for a second time courtesy of a left-footed strike across the face of goal.

Yet the Montenegrin picked himself up to place a sumptuous backheel into the path of the onrushing Lichtsteiner, who kept his cool to comfortably slot past Ujkani on 50 minutes.

As the tough playing conditions continued to pose even greater difficulty to both sides, Juventus, bolstered by the added physical presence of  Pogba, Padoin and Bendtner, rose to the challenge, snapping into their opponents with a host of well-timed challenges and interceptions.

Palermo’s uphill task became even more of a tall order when  Morganella was given his marching orders with 15 minutes remaining following two bookable offences.

Vucinic had the chance to wrap up all three points when he was sent through one-on-one with Ujkani in the dying stages, but the goalkeeper did well to narrow the angle and thwart the striker’s chipped attempt with a strong block.

The result takes Juventus five points clear at the top ahead of tonight’s showdown between Scudetto contenders Inter and Napoli.  

PALERMO 0-1 JUVENTUS

GOAL: Lichtsteiner 50

PALERMO
Ujkani; Munoz, Donati (Dybala 70), Von Bergen; Pisano (Brienza 46), Morganella, Barreto, Kurtic (Viola 75), Garcia; Ilicic, Miccoli.
Substitutes not used: Benussi, Cetto,  Labrin, Milanovic, Rios, Giorgi, Bertolo, Zahavi, Budan.
Coach: Gasperini

JUVENTUS
Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner (Padoin 65), Vidal (Pogba 54), Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Vucinic, Matri (Bendtner 73)
Substitutes not used: Storari, Rubinho, De Ceglie, Giaccherini, Quagliarella.
Coach: Conte

REFEREE: De Marco
ASSISTANTS: Marzaloni, Padovan
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Di Liberatore

BOOKED: Lichtsteiner 37, Morganella 68, Morganella 75, Pirlo 77, Bonucci 87
SENT OFF: Morganella 75