Narrow win for Juventus
Last Updated: 10/03/13 4:59pm
Sergio Almiron tries to stop Sebastian Giovinco.
Substitute Emanuele Giaccherini scored the goal that could go a long way to deciding the destiny of the Serie A title, as Juventus pulled nine points clear at the top with a 1-0 victory over Catania.
Early news that Juve's nearest rivals Napoli were losing 2-0 at Chievo was met with a muted response in Turin as the Bianconeri struggled to break down a resilient Catania side, who harbour ambitions of securing European football.
But Juve head coach Antonio Conte's decision to withdraw misfiring strikers Sebastian Giovinco and Mirko Vucinic proved to be inspired as the latter's replacement pounced to give the leaders a huge advantage with only 10 games remaining.
Juve won an early corner in their bid to ramp up their pressure on Catania in the opening stages, as Pablo Alvarez closed down an onrushing Claudio Marchisio just yards from goal.
Andrea Pirlo soon launched a trademark pinpoint pass forward to Stephan Lichtsteiner, whose movement was telegraphed by Giuseppe Bellusci, but the hosts would enjoy a better chance in the 16th minute.
It took remarkable flexibility for keeper Mariano Andujar to leap on to Vucinic's shot on the turn and push the ball out for a corner, but Juve were not cowed and kept on coming.
Minutes later, Marchisio saw his drive from the edge of the box deflected off a defender and out for a corner and Vucinic slammed high over the bar from the resulting corner.
That near miss only spurred the Montenegrin striker on, but he failed to make the most of a defensive mix-up between Bellusci and Sergio Almiron in clattering the ball against a post with the goal gaping.
Giovinco was having a particularly poor game and he was found wanting in the second half, with Vucinic's canny slide-rule pass quickly recovered by the visiting defence to a chorus of boos.
The diminutive forward did not last much longer and Alessandro Matri entered the fray shortly after Vucinic had failed to convert a fine forward pass from Pirlo, with the Montenegrin exiting for Giaccherini shortly afterward.
Juve bared their teeth once more before striking the killer blow. A Pirlo free-kick rebounded wildly into the box only for Marchisio's radar to malfunction at a crucial moment, the Italy international slamming the ball wide.
It would not matter, though, as substitute Giaccherini scored the goal that could see Juve retain the Scudetto one minute into stoppage time.
A superb show of skill saw Paul Pogba dissect the Catania backline to drive in a cross from the right. Andujar slapped the ball as far as a lurking Giaccherini who did not hesitate to pick his spot and inspire rapturous scenes at the Juventus Stadium.
Italy Serie A