A second-half Fernando Llorente header earns 10-man Juventus a priceless point from this evening’s intense Serie A encounter with Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico
A superb glancing header from Fernando Llorente on 60 minutes earned 10-man Juventus a deserved share of the spoils in this evening’s 1-1 draw with a resurgent Lazio outfit at the Stadio Olimpico.
Despite making a promising start in the capital, Juventus, seeking a 13th consecutive Serie A triumph, found themselves a goal behind on 27 minutes after Gigi Buffon saw red for bringing down Miroslav Klose in the box, Antonio Candreva converting the resulting penalty for the Biancocelesti.
But the visitors, featuring seven changes from Tuesday’s Coppa Italia defeat to Roma, roared back in the second half and clinched a point their efforts more than merited when Llorente stooped to nod Stephan Lichtsteiner’s precise delivery past a motionless Etrit Berisha.
It was a cagey introduction to proceedings at the Stadio Olimpico as both sides placed men behind the ball and sized each other up in a tactical battle played out predominantly in a congested midfield.
Early ambitious strikes from Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal in the opening eight minutes, both from range, left Berisha unflustered as Juventus sought to gain an instant foothold in the affair.
A nervy moment fell Gigi Buffon’s way when he miscontrolled Andrea Barzagli’s backpass while under pressure from joint Biancocelesti top scorer Klose, but the goalkeeper recovered to clear the danger.
Otherwise it was Juventus who looked the most likely to find the breakthrough, committing increasing numbers forward as Lazio sought to soak up the pressure before hitting on the break.
One such counter attack led to the opener on 27 minutes. A through ball threaded in behind the back three picked out the run of Klose, who was felled in the area by Buffon. Referee Davide Massa pointed immediately to the spot and produced a straight red card for the Bianconeri capitain.
With Kwadwo Asamoah sacrified as Marco Storari came off the bench, Candreva, who spent a spell on loan at Juventus in 2010, stepped up to send the goalkeeper the wrong way from 12 yards.
Now operating in a 4-3-2 system, Juventus, in spite of their numerical inferiority, maintained their firm grip on possession and continued to take the game to Edy Reja’s men.
Their best opportunity to level matters came at the end of a flowing passing move in which the ball was worked neatly to Llorente, only for the striker to guide his shot straight at Etrit Berisha after spinning his marker to perfection just outside the six-yard box.
Having taken heart from their advantage, Lazio started the second half strongly, enjoying significant spells of possession as the Bianconeri worked hard to block their route to goal.
The increased graft paid off, though, as, on the hour mark, a delightful combination between Lichtsteiner and Llorente resulted in the latter glancing a magnificent header beyond a stranded Berisha and into the top corner, sparking scenes of jubilation among the vociferous travelling Bianconeri faithful.
With parity restored, Juventus now had the wind in their sails and looked to inflict further damage on the Lazio backline, Tevez rifling in a snap shot moments later which was turned behind for a corner by Berisha.
But the danger of getting hit on the counter still remained, and only the superb reactions of Storari in tipping Klose’s bullet header from point blank range onto the crossbar prevented Lazio from regaining their lead on 76 minutes.
There was, however, little the goalkeeper could do when substitute Keita unleashed a curling shot which cannoned back off the post with five minutes remaining.
Yet Juventus held firm to claim a priceless point and preserve their unbeaten run in the championship which stretches back to October, lifting them nine ahead of nearest challengers Roma, who travel to face this season's surprise package Hellas Verona tomorrow. Next up for Conte's men, Inter.