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Monday November 11 2013
Juventus launch Scudetto missile

A second consecutive slip-up by Roma gave the reigning champions a scent of blood. And, as Giancarlo Rinaldi reports, Juventus showed their old lethal streak to move in for the kill.

Anyone who thought they would give up their crown without a fight really knew nothing about Antonio Conte and his team. In the biggest Scudetto showdown of the season so far, the Bianconeri showed their determination to make it three-in-a-row. Ahead of the international break, it sounded like an alarm bell to any of their title rivals.

La Vecchia Signora started their game with Napoli like a caged beast which had been starved of food for a fortnight. They sunk their teeth into Rafa Benitez’s side with great gusto in the opening stages and got their reward after just a couple of minutes. Fernando Llorente was narrowly offside when he prodded the ball home, but the Turin side needed no second invitation to take control.

Not that the Partenopei went down without a fight, they had their chances to get back into the match but Gigi Buffon – the man some suggested was past his best – excelled himself in denying the visitors. Later in the game a typically pinpoint Andrea Pirlo free-kick and sweet swivelling finish from Paul Pogba put the outcome beyond doubt. It puts Conte’s men in the perfect position to carry out an overtaking manoeuvre at the top of the table once their players come back from national team duties.

“We have sent an important signal to those ahead of us,” said Pirlo in post-match interviews. “We are all up there – Roma are having a great championship but we have to worry about ourselves. After the Giallorossi drew we had to close the gap and we did it in the best way possible.”

“Napoli are a very strong team which can still improve a lot,” added Conte. “I am sure they are a team which will fight right to the end for the Scudetto. It will be a fight with them and Roma and then there are Inter and Fiorentina and maybe other teams.”

“To start a game against such a strong side as Juventus and go behind after two minutes changes everything,” said Benitez. “Up to the 74th minute the team showed quality and concentration. Then we saw two goals which showed the quality of their players.”

Those who had predicted a slowing of Roma’s pace got surprising proof of their wisdom against Sassuolo. The Giallorossi looked to be set for a Stadio Olimpico stroll when Alessandro Longhi thumped one into his own goal in the first half. But a personal duel between Adem Ljajic and Gianluca Pegolo saw the visiting goalkeeper thwart the Serbian on at least three occasions. When Rudi Garcia’s men failed to extend their lead it was up to special agent Domenico Berardi – owned by Juve – to level the match deep in injury time.

“When we did not get the second goal this could always happen,” admitted the Roma boss. “You cannot relax when you are just one goal ahead. But we are still in first place and we played a good game – more so in the second half than the first. That is the important thing for me – we are playing well and as long as we are doing that we will win games.”

For other teams, however, winning matches has become the hardest thing of all. For few sides is this more true than Max Allegri’s Milan. With Mario Balotelli banned again, the closest they came to downing Chievo was a Robinho shot which bounced off the post. Their tactician took the goalless draw – and the increased questions over his future – in philosophical style.

“I am the Milan Coach – if the club thinks they need another one they will let me know,” he said. “We created a lot and conceded not much. I couldn’t have asked any more of my players. Sometimes scoring a goal and winning a game can change people’s opinions of a team.”

It is the same story for Delio Rossi at Sampdoria who was surrounded by rumours that he would be shown the door after away defeat to Fiorentina. A quick-fire Giuseppe Rossi double looked to have given the Viola an easy victory but they trembled a little after Manolo Gabbiadini narrowed the gap. Vincenzo Montella’s men just held out to keep themselves in the European debate.

Verona tumbled out of that equation a little with their defeat at the hands of back-in-form Genoa, but Inter kept up a good pace thanks to a Saturday night win over Livorno. Their task was made easier by an unfortunate blunder from visiting goalkeeper Francesco Bardi who pretty much threw the ball into his own net to open the scoring. The fact that he is on-loan from the Nerazzurri, like much of the Tuscan team, only made it look worse. Yuto Nagatomo completed the scoring in a match which was also notable for the return of Javier Zanetti to action after his long spell out through injury.

Elsewhere, Lazio shared the spoils with Parma at the Ennio Tardini while two Daniele Conti thunderbolt free-kicks were enough for Cagliari to sink Torino. That victory allowed the Sardinians to pull clear of Bologna who were downed by a late Marko Livaja strike in a 2-1 defeat at Atalanta. Finally, there was some consolation for Maxi Lopez who was able to get his mind off widely-reported relationship problems by giving Catania a rare win this season at home to Udinese. However, the Sicilians might still be separating from Serie A come the end of this campaign.

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Have your say...
PIRLO....!!!! What a goal and performance!! Juve were very good last night first time this season they have played like JUVE, The interchanging and movement passing was all fantastic. Pirlo will go to Bayern next season I heard.
on the 11th November, 2013 at 2:29pm
Every week we are treated to some tactical bizareness. Trying to get a win in a crucial match against the bottom team? Time to give Cristante his first game of the season? That'll boost his confidence when we inevitably fail to score? And why was Emanuelson not good enough to play left back (or for Fulham) last season but now he is? Every week there's more questions and less time to rescue the situation.Definitely the worst period for supporting Milan since 81/82.I wonder what happened in 81/82?
on the 11th November, 2013 at 1:41pm
Well may as well hijack the blog with a rant about Milan. But before I do Juve looked good on Sunday but this is what happens when you have a proper coach and proper team with some coherent plan in place. Now for Milan what exactly is Allegri's preferred formation? I'd have some sympathy (although to blame luck is just bare faced denial) if Allegri was making the best of a bad bunch but he isn't. Against the bottom team he planned 4 central midfielders and one CF supported by a AM.
on the 11th November, 2013 at 1:36pm
Why the Milan board is delaying the sack of Max Allegri still baffles me. The man has no tactical acumen nor coaching prowess to steer the club to glory.
Galliani's departure is also long overdue. Lady B will or anyone else will be welcomed cos the old man has also ran out of administrative ideas. They've both caused us too much pains...Forza Milano !!!
on the 11th November, 2013 at 11:17am
Felt for Bardi against inter terrible mistake although he made 2 great saves in the game. All keepers make mistakes. I have always rated him very highly. If I was Cesare I would call him up, Marchetti is useful, everytime he plays he costs us goals, he is good at Lazio but not international quality. Berardi looks some player, just wish he had picked a different match to score in.
on the 11th November, 2013 at 11:12am
Delighted for Parolo been saying for ages he deserves a call. Disappointed no Cassano again and would have liked Gabbiadini in instead of Gila who isn't good enough. Any news anyone on SES?. Cerci shouldn't be in the squad, despite his good form for torino I don't think he is international class to hot and cold. Insigne was outstanding last night, a mixture of bad look and buffon was what stopped him getting a few goals. 2 testing friendlies hope for 2 good performances. Germany are some team.
on the 11th November, 2013 at 11:05am
Clearly Juve are the favourites for the scudetto and they are clearly hitting top form now but we will fight to the end. Proud to me a Roma fan. Napoli are still a big part of the race as well. Buffon had a good game last night and has looked more confident and assured in last couple of games which we all need. Now to Cesare, Chiellini is injured so wasn't called. I want go on about Roncaglia despite my thoughts. Shame De Sciglio out injured still. NO Verratti anyone?.
on the 11th November, 2013 at 11:02am
Disappointed with our draw with Sassuolo to concede with the last kick is very disappointing. Garcia is right with Totti, Gervinho, Destro and Borriello all injured naturally we are missing that cutting edge we had earlier in the season. This has been very evident in last 4 games. We are still 1 point clear at the top and fighting hard, the international break has come at a good time for us. Hopefully we can recover some of our players, when they return I am confident we will start flying again.
on the 11th November, 2013 at 10:58am

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