Ladies & gentlemen, Juventus is IN. As in saying “the Doctor is IN”, only in a football team context. Just a few days before their important reconciliation with Champions League (FC Zenit is waiting), the Bianconeri gave a convincing display against Udinese on Sunday. Kinda like a way of saying: “Bring it on Europe, we’re ready!”.
Now, the victory may have been achieved only by the narrowest of margins, but the manner in which it was achieved will go some way in reassuring Claudio Ranieri and Juventus fans. The three points, courtesy of Amauri (scoring his first Serie A goal with his new club), allow the team to stay on level points with Inter, behind the early surprise leaders Atalanta and Lazio.
(From Gazzetta dello Sport): Three points, as we were saying, made all the more impressive by the absence of Trezeguet and Del Piero, left on the bench until the last 5 minutes of play in light of Juve’s mid-week European action. A starting line up that also welcomed back Giorgio Chiellini, out of action since his mid-August knee injury in the Trofeo Berlusconi.
Juve however did not make it easy for themselves, contriving to miss a flurry of chances throughout the game (thanks, or rather “because of” Samir Handanovic, giving out an impressive display in the Udinese goal). For their part, the visitors were unable to produce a repeat of last year’s performance (in which they beat Juventus away from home), the team struggling to put together any sort of real scoring chance, and failing to “honour” the Azzurri’s mid-week outing (which took place in Stadio Barbera) with an adequate display. Indeed the team’s all-attacking brand of football, an intrinsic characteristic of Pasquale Marino’s teams, was nowhere to be seen.
Beginning the game in an aggressive fashion and fully focused on their opponents (despite their mid-week CL encounter threatening to draw away their attentions), Juventus dominated the first half. Mauro Camoranesi was in inspired form on the right wing, Paolo De Ceglie a little dynamo on the opposite flank, all the while Vincenzo Iaquinta and Amauri provided a constant danger upfront. Somewhat wasteful with their opportunities though. Juventus created chance after chance but it all seemed in vain, especially when Iaquinta scored from Nedved’s assist only for the goal to be disallowed for offside.
There was no breakthrough either when Iaquinta again latched onto an Amauri cross and hit a first-time shot at Handanovic, the goalkeeper deflecting the ball out for a corner. Later still, it was the woodwork that came to Udinese’s rescue, Amauri’s header from a Camoranesi cross coming back out off the post. Iaquinta went in for chance nº3 and 4(perhaps particularly looking to impress his former club), but both his header and strike still failed to hit the back of the net.
On the other end, Udinese were unrecognisable from their usual self (even though that had more to do with their opponents’ merits than their own shortcomings): there was no sign of their usually free-flowing brand of football or of their well-worked counterattacks, replaced instead by long balls pumped forward to Antonio Di Natale, who was unable to unleash his skills. The first half thus finished goalless, Juve having failed to take what would have been a deserved lead.
The second half began in much the same manner as the first, with Juventus continuing to push forward as Udinese defended deep into their own half. In an attempt to change the tide of the game, Marino decided to bring off Di Natale (evidently tired from his exertions with the national side,) in place of Alexis Sanchez. The Bianconeri then almost found a breakthrough via an unexpected source, as Christian Poulsen hit the bar with a powerful shot from outside the area, Juventus once again thwarted by the woodwork as Amauri was in the first half.
Then with 67 minutes on the clock, the former Palermo forward finally broke the deadlock with a precise right-footed effort following Sissoko’s incursion from the middle. It was Amauri’s first goal of the season, the player just recently speaking to Sky Sports of his willingness to don Italy’s national jersey should he be called up by Lippi and upon receipt of his pending Italian passport. 1-0 Juventus
Towards the end of the game, Udinese finally rediscovered a modicum of pride and managed to create a chance for substitute Antonio Floro Flores: through on goal after a hazardous back-pass, the Udinese striker was floored in Juve’s penalty box by Chiellini. Replays showed it was merely a brush, no penalty. However by then Juve were on the back foot, and the threat of conceding a late goal (like they did in Florence) was no doubt playing on the players’ minds. But they held on to win a contest that they largely dominated. Consider that a warning, FC Zenit…
|GOALSCORERS: 67’ Amauri (J).
| JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Buffon – Grygera, Mellberg, Chiellini, De Ceglie – Camoranesi (87’ Del Piero), Sissoko, Poulsen, Nedved – Amauri (87’ Trezeguet), Iaquinta (80’ Marchionni). (bench: Manninger, Knezevic, Salihamidzic, Marchisio). Coach: Ranieri.
| UDINESE (3-4-3): Handanovic – Ferronetti, Coda, Lukovic – Motta (71’ Isla), D’Agostino, Inler, G.Pasquale – Pepe (75’ Floro Flores), Quagliarella, Di Natale (58’ A.Sanchez). (bench: Belardi, Sala, Domizzi, Tissone). Coach: Marino.