Serie A - Juve joint top after Lecce win

Sun, 08 Jan 15:02:00 2012

Juventus remained in the thick of the three-horse title race at the summit of Serie A with a laboured 1-0 win over Lecce at Stadio Via del Mare.

Alessandro Matri - 0

Alessandro Matri scored the only goal of the game, five minutes after coming on as a forced early replacement for the injured Fabio Quagliarella.

Basement club Lecce had chances to get back into the game only to be denied by some fine saves from Gianluigi Buffon and a number of mis-placed final balls.

Matri really should have added to his personal tally as well as putting the game beyond doubt on a number of occasions in the second half, while Mirko Vucinic forced a fine fingertips save from Massimiliano Benassi late on.

Juve remain second, behind Milan on goal difference, following the reigning champions’ 2-0 win at Atalanta. Meanwhile, Lecce are now nine points from safety with Bologna winning by the same margin at home to Catania.

In a contest which prior to Udinese’s 4-1 win at home to Cesena earlier in the day pitted the bottom club against a side level on points at the top, Lecce surprisingly gave Juve more than a game in the early stages.

They were also unfortunately not to take the lead after just seven minutes when Massimo Oddo launched a free-kick into the visitors’ box from the halfway line, finding an unmarked Guillermo Giacomazzi whose stretched volley forced a point blank stop from Buffon.

Lecce had been forced into an early substitution two minutes earlier when Rodney Strasser picked up an early injury, with Ruben Olivera his replacement, and Juventus had a similar situation on 22 minutes when Quagliarella made way for Matri.

Matri would bring the favourites back into the game, although first he spurned a one-on-one with Benassi when firing tamely at the goalkeeper on 25 minutes, before opening the scoring two minutes later.

It was the initial strike from Vucinic which created the opportunity, and when Benassi spilled the fierce 20-yard effort from the Montenegro forward, Matri was in the right position to casually nod home the rebound.

Juve were more comfortable from there, though it took another fine parry from Buffon to deny David Di Michele a picturesque equaliser in the first minute of time added on.

Within minutes of the restart, only a vital interception prevented Claudio Marchisio’s cut-back from reaching Arturo Vidal for a simple conversion to double the lead, while the Chilean was booked along with Olivera soon after for a heated shoving contest.

Giacomazzi picked out Di Michele on 57 minutes, only for the striker to scuff his golden opportunity, with Christian Obodo having two straight shots closed down in the aftermath.

Oddo came close with a placed free-kick in the 65th minute before Juventus finally began to look comfortable seeing the result out.

And with nine minutes left, Vucinic casually turned and fired at goal from outside the box with only the outstretched fingers of Benassi keeping the home side in the game.

Substitute Cristian Pasquato put a great chance wide two minutes later following good work by Djamel Mesbah, but from there the title hopefuls held on to grind out the three points.

Liam Happe / Eurosport

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