Serie A - Juventus return to summit with win

Sun, 18 Dec 15:52:00 2011

Juventus returned to the summit of Serie A with a 2-0 home derby win over Novara.

2012 Serie A Juventus Simone Pepe - 0

Simone Pepe gave the Bianconeri the perfect start with a finish on four minutes, but the home fans had to wait until the 75th minute to breathe easily - Fabio Quagliarella rising to head his first goal for a year.

Milan had gone top on Saturday night with a 2-0 home win over Siena.

Juve could have scored many more in the first Derby di Piemonte for 55 years. A minute before the opener, Claudio Marchisio saw a shot blocked on the line after good work by Quagliarella on the right.

Paolo De Ceglie created the goal with a delicious ball from the left flank to take both goalkeeper Samir Ujkani and his defence out of the equation, with Pepe applying the finishing touch from a couple of yards out.

Ujkani kept goal with distinction, saving from Emanuele Giaccherini after the midfielder has chested down to shoot. However his side, who started the day second from bottom, are yet to keep a clean sheet on the road this season.

They lived up to the promise of coach Attilio Tesser that they would seek to play football as well as defend, but whenever they counter-attacked Juve stole possession and countered themselves with their superior midfielders.

Quagliarella, who suffered a bad injury a year ago, had not found the target for Juve in 364 days and seemed set to complete the calendar year as he blazed a shot over and saw a header from a De Ceglie cross drift wide in the first half.

Juve's best chances in the opening 45 minutes fell to Giaccherini - who forced a save from point-black range with Pepe screaming for the ball to his right - and Marchisio, whose header was claimed at the foot of the post.

Novara almost drew level in the final moments of the half when Marco Rigoni powered a downward header that Gianluigi Buffon somehow held on to.

Immediately after the break Del Piero was on the end of a sparkling counter-attack but bent his shot side of the far post from 18 yards out, as Juve cranked up the pressure on the visitors.

After the hour mark it should have been two again when Pepe was played in over the top and angled in from the right. With Del Piero all alone in the box, he delayed his cross - and when it came first-half substitute Massimo Paci slid back to defend.

Novara began to throw caution to the wind, with the result that Buffon had to make a flying save from a Raffaele Rubino header.

But it meant that they had to run their luck even more - and the atmospheric Juventus Arena was on its feet to acclaim Quagliarella as he rose to head Pepe's corner inside the post and make the game more or less safe.

Three minutes from time, Ujkani saved from Giaccherini on the left as the midfielder spearheaded a three-on-two attack. And soon after Pepe went close, swinging a free-kick on the left just wide of the near post as he sought to surprise the keeper.

Novara put in an impressive shift, but were no match for their local rivals as Juve maintained their status as the only side in the five major leagues to hold an unbeaten record.

Jonathan Symcox (Twitter: @jonathansymcox) / Eurosport

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