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Saturday, 18 February 2012

Pirlo leads Juventus to top of Serie A

Juventus: Juventus eased to a 3-1 win at home to 10-man Catania to regain first place in the Serie A standings, despite having gone behind early on at Juventus Stadium.

Pablo Barrientos shocked the Bianconeri with an early strike, but shortly after Andrea Pirlo drew the game level with a fine free-kick from just outside the box. The former AC Milan man stepped up his game even further in the second period as he provided assists for Giorgio Chiellini and Fabio Quagliarella after the visitors had had Marco Motta sent off.

Catania made a brilliant start to the match as in the fourth minute Motta, on loan at the Sicilians from Juventus, picked out Barrientos outside the box, and the Argentine took a few steps before firing a precise shot into the lower left corner.

The Old Lady quickly recovered from the early setback, and began mounting increasingly dangerous attacks. The deserved equaliser came in the 22nd minute through Pirlo. The midfielder struck from a free-kick from outside the box, sending a beautiful effort in the lower right corner for his first goal for Juventus.

The Bianconeri continued to press as they aimed to take advantage of their momentum, and they nearly went in front on the half-hour mark when Quagliarella sent a shot crashing onto the bar.

Moments later, however, Catania responded through Francesco Lodi, the midfielder forcing a superb reflex save from Gianluigi Buffon, who managed to parry the ball against the woodwork to save his team from conceding a certain goal.

Little changed after the break as the Old Lady continued to press forward in search of the winner. Pirlo and Quagliarella went close on a couple of occasions, but it seemed increasingly likely that the game would end in a draw.

In the 65th minute Motta severely damaged Catania's chances of earning a point, as he was deservedly shown a second yellow card for a ghastly challenge on Juventus left-back Paolo De Ceglie. It looked like a matter of time before the Old Lady would take the lead, and indeed they did 10 minutes later.

Chiellini was in the right place at the right time to head in yet another brilliant free-kick from Pirlo, continuing an impressive show by the midfielder. Catania looked unable to contain the former Milan man, and he was not done for the night yet.

In the 81st minute, he slid a superb through ball in for Quagliarella, who raced ahead of the Sicilian defence and fired a low shot, which deflected off Tomas Kosicky before looping into the net to put the game well beyond any doubt.

Following tonight's result, Juventus are first in the standings with 49 points, two more than title rivals Milan, who they face in the next round of Serie A. Catania sit in 14th place with 27 points after 22 games.


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