02.11.2013 20:07 - in: Serie A S

      Pogba pounces to seal victory in Parma

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      Paul Pogba nets in the closing stages of a closely-fought encounter to end the Bianconeri’s winless run at the Tardini and keep up the heat on Serie A leaders Roma

      A late Paul Pogba strike secured the Bianconeri’s first win at the Tardini since 2010 and enabled Antonio Conte’s men to remain in hot pursuit of Serie A front runners Roma with their third victory in seven days.

      With the game locked at 0-0 following a combative 77 minutes in Parma, substitute Fabio Quagliarella spun away from his marker before unleashing a sensational shot which cannoned off the bar and fell kindly for Pogba to tap home.

      It proved to be the moment of class required to decide a tightly-contested affair, but Conte will have every reason to be pleased with his team’s overall performance after a display founded upon tenacity and spirit enabled them to register their third consecutive clean sheet and a success that could prove to be vital in the context of this season’s Scudetto race.

      At a notoriously difficult venue for Serie A sides to visit, Juventus, featuring six changes from Wednesday night’s win over Catania, made a solid start to proceedings, using the intelligent passing of Pogba, restored to the side in place of Andrea Pirlo, as the early focal point for setting the play.

      A speculative attempt from former Juventus frontman Amauri, comfortably collected by Gigi Buffon, and a Massimo Gobbi cut-back that failed to pick out a team-mate provided brief glimpses of the hosts’ intentions in the final third – but it was predominantly Conte’s charges who enjoyed the better of the earlier exchanges, pinging the ball neatly from right to left as they probed patiently for an opening.

      This almost came when a neat one-two between Sebastian Giovinco and Carlos Tevez in a tight area saw the ball drop to the Argentine, whose instinctive left-footed snap shot was thwarted by Antonio Mirante on 15 minutes.

      As the Bianconeri began to command greater occupancy of opposition territory, their chances at goal, albeit from range, became increasingly frequent. Arturo Vidal warmed the palms of Mirante moments before the half-hour mark, while Giorgio Chiellini and Pogba were unable to direct their efforts on target despite working themselves into promising positions.

      Making steady forward momentum from his position at the fulcrum of the central midfield trio was Vidal, Serie A’s most prolific midfielder on five goals alongside opposite number Marco Parolo. His best chance to break the deadlock came after being fed by Tevez on 33 minutes, dragging a right-footed shot inches wide from the fringes of the penalty box.

      The start of the second half saw Juventus shift up a gear and fashion two immediate opportunities to open the scoring inside the opening five minutes. Kwadwo Asamoah, making his 150th Serie A appearance, had the chance to celebrate his milestone in style, only for Jonathan Biabiany to make a timely intervention at the back post, while Giovinco was denied first by a well-assembled wall and then Mirante as he pushed for a goal against his former employers.

      But the visitors were handed a narrow escape moments later as a purposeful Parma counter-attack threatened to undo all their early pressing. Biabiany beat Chiellini for pace and squared for Amuari, whose back-heeled attempt flashed across the face of goal without calling Buffon into action.

      In need of a change in approach to unlock a well-drilled Parma, Conte introduced playmaker Pirlo to the action shortly after the hour mark, with Vidal reverting to his more traditional role on the right of the midfield three.

      The Bianconeri kept plugging away and could have made their pressure count when Tevez turned Padoin’s precise centre towards goal with 20 minutes remaining, only for Mirante to prove equal to it with a strong block at his near post.

      It was to be the Argentine’s final contribution at the Tardini, with Fabio Quagliarella replacing him as part of a double substitution which also saw Fernando Llorente brought on for Giovinco.

      What followed just 60 seconds later fully vindicated Conte’s decision to overhaul his strike partnership. Quagliarella, in his first appearance following an injury sustained in mid-October, left supporters open-mouthed with an audacious attempt on the turn that cannoned back off Mirante’s crossbar, with Pogba the quickest to react and turn the ball past Mirante.

      Scenes of jubilance among the travelling faithful followed in Emilia-Romagna, celebrations which became even more vociferous when Domenico Celi blew his final whistle to bring an end to the Bianconeri’s three-year winless run at the Tardini.

      Conte’s men will now look to breathe new life into their Champions league campaign when they welcome Real Madrid to Juventus Stadium on Tuesday night, safe in the knowledge that their rediscovered defensive solidarity and bite will give them every hope of causing Ancelotti’s star-studded team difficulty on home soil.

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