Alessandro Matri’s brace gave Juventus a 2-1 victory over Udinese in this top of the table showdown under the snow.
It was first against third at the Juventus Stadium in Turin, which held up well under heavy snowfall throughout the day. Mirko Vucinic was injured, with Claudio Marchisio and Simone Pepe only fit for the bench, so Fabio Quagliarella was given the nod against his former club. Antonio Conte mirrored Udinese’s three-man defence. The Friulani missed Diego Fabbrini, Andrea Coda, Paulo Vitor Barreto, Giampiero Pinzi, while Mehdi Benatia, Kwadwo Asamoah and Emmanuel Badu were at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Gigi Buffon celebrated his birthday and Marcelo Estigarribia nearly gave him a present in the opening 120 seconds, but Samir Handanovic rushed off his line to block with his legs after springing the offside trap. Handanovic also flapped at a looping Giorgio Chiellini header and Alessandro Matri was penalised for a foul on the goalkeeper as they both scrambled for the loose ball.
Buffon fingertipped an Almen Abdi snapshot over the bar and from the corner the birthday boy flew to push Pablo Armero’s volley round the post.
Matri went on another rapid Juve counter-attack, but once more Handanovic rushed off his line to block with his body. Abdi charged down a Stephan Lichtsteiner effort from six yards.
Juventus did break through just before half-time. Handanovic did brilliantly to get down and palm away a Quagliarella header on Marcelo Estigarribia’s cross, but could do nothing as Matri pounced to follow up.
Antonio Floro Flores replaced Abdi for a more attacking line-up, but Juve wasted a good chance when Estigarribia just failed to make contact with Quagliarella’s chipped pass at the back post.
It was Floro Flores who equalised, as Udinese intercepted Andrea Barzagli’s pass in midfield and surged forward, Mauricio Isla spreading it to the left for the substitute to pass it round Buffon into the far bottom corner.
The Friulani went on the counter again and Di Natale came sliding in to blast over with a deflection off his leg.
Instead, Matri restored the Juventus advantage with his second goal of the game. Substitute Claudio Marchisio flicked on the Arturo Vidal ball for Matri to turn Damiano Ferronetti and flash a snooker shot across Handanovic.
Simone Pepe came off the bench and clumsily slashed at a clearance in the box, but was fortunate no Udinese players were ready to take advantage. Barzagli had to block a dangerous pass from reaching Di Natale in the six-yard area.