Juventus celebrated the club’s 117th birthday on a winning note by overcoming Empoli 2-0 in Tuscany this evening, with the triumph taking them three points above nearest challengers Roma at the top of Serie A.
Goals from Andrea Pirlo and Alvaro Morata complimented an improved second-half performance to earn the visitors a deserved triumph over the newly-promoted side, whose disciplined defensive performance kept the Bianconeri at bay for 61 minutes.
Pirlo it was who eventually broke the deadlock, curling home a trademark free-kick that gave Davide Bassi no chance of stopping. And the goalkeeper found himself picking the ball out of his net just over ten minutes later, this time Morata the assassin with a left-footed screamer that flew into the top corner.
Roma’s 2-0 defeat to Napoli earlier on in the day meant Juventus knew a success would put them clear at the top, and increased impetus after the interval proved crucial in completing their mission.
Recalled to the side as one of four changes from Genoa, Sebastian Giovinco represented the Bianconeri’s most potent threat in the opening stages, linking well with Morata and also dropping off to retrieve the ball and drive the team forward from deep.
It was the Azzurri forward who had the first two shots on goal in a low key opening to the affair, drawing a simple save with the first before seeing his second blocked by a last-ditch Lorenzo Tonelli intervention.
Empoli’s penchant for attractive football was praised by Allegri in his pre-match press conference and the hosts, urged to be “courageous” by coach Maurizio Sarri, stuck to their game plan and looked to get plenty of bodies forward when in promising attacking positions. Such a scenario manifested itself on 18 minutes, with Gigi Buffon proving equal to Piotr Zielinski’s snap-shot following a neat build-up.
The remainder of the first-half brought flashes of Morata’s direct running with the ball at his feet and Roberto Pereyra’s close control and dribbling down the right flank, but the hosts defended with diligence to return to the dressing rooms with their goal unbreached.
With Stephan Lichtsteiner on in place of Angelo Ogbonna for the restart, Juventus returned with greater purpose and could have taken the lead through Kwadwo Asamoah, Claudio Marchisio and Giorgio Chiellini before Andrea Pirlo, recalled to the starting line-up for the trip to Tuscany, curled home a trademark free-kick to open his account for the season on 61 minutes.
Buzzing with confidence and with the shackles now well and truly off, Allegri’s men moved the ball around neatly and went close to a second moments later when first substitute Carlos Tevez and then Marchisio were denied twice in quick succession by Bassi.
Another goal looked on the cards and Morata it was who provided it, smashing an unstoppable left-footed strike into the top corner to get the Bianconeri breathing space.
The game drew to a close with Tevez stinging the fingertips of Bassi before being upended by last man Tonelli, who was immediately given his marching orders by Paolo Valeri.
With normal service resumed, Juventus will now look towards Tuesday’s Champions League meeting with Olympiacos, a must-win encounter in the race for the top two qualification spots of Group A.