zondag 8 januari 2012

Serie A

Lecce 0-1 Juventus
First-half Matri strike clinches three points for visitors to keep share of the top spot
In a match devoid of much goalmouth action, a scrappy goal from the first-half substitute was enough to secure all three points for the Turin outfit and keep the pressure on Milan

Juventus produced a controlled display to overcome Lecce 1-0 at the Via Del Mare Stadium and keep up with Milan at the top of the Serie A.

Substitute Alessandro Matri's close range header in the 27th minute proved to be enough for the visitors, who never looked in any real danger despite the efforts of their beleaguered hosts, who remain rooted to the foot of the table. 
The first opportunity of the contest fell to the home side, as Guillermo Giacomazzi found himself unmarked from Christian Obodo’s free kick, but his attempt on goal was struck within the grasp of Gianluigi Buffon.

However, despite some encouraging play from Serie A’s last place side, it was Juventus who would strike first in the 27th minute. Mirko Vucinic’s low shot forced Massimiliano Benassi to parry and Matri, on only four minutes earlier after an injury to Fabio Quagliarella, reacted quickest to the rebound to nod the Turin outfit into the lead.

Juventus began to dictate proceedings, holding nearly two-thirds of possession in the opening period. However, Buffon still had to be alert to tip away a rasping drive from David Di Michele from outside the area deep in first-half stoppage time.

Antonio Conte’s men almost doubled their advantage seconds after the restart when Andrea Pirlo released Claudio Marchisio into the area, but Benassi was on hand to thwart the midfielder’s finish.

Lecce were having a tough time creating anything meaningful after the break, but nearly managed an equaliser shortly before the hour mark. A three on three counter attack saw Di Michele completely miscue a shot from an unmarked position 10 yards from goal, before Leonardo Bonucci blocked Luis Muriel’s goal-bound effort at full stretch.

Juventus had further chances for a second as the match reached its closing stages. Arturo Vidal disappointingly looped a shot over Benassi’s goal in the 76th minute after a great feed by Marchisio, before Vucinic flashed a low drive inches wide of the far post two minutes later.

However, they were given a scare with six minutes to go, as Christian Pasquato’s shot flew just wide after a great cross by Djamel Mesbah. It proved to be the closest that the hosts would get to levelling the scores, and Matri fired wide on a late counter-attack as Conte’s men came away with the win.

The result sees Juventus into second place, level with leaders Milan on 37 points. Lecce meanwhile stay bottom of the standings with nine points, three points behind their nearest rivals Cesena.

Atalanta 0-2 AC Milan
Ibrahimovic goal and assist lead Massimiliano Allegri's side to crucial away win
The Swede again proved the Rossoneri's key performer as the Italian champions emerged from the winter break to record a hard-earned win in Bergamo

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored one goal and created another as AC Milan held on to top spot in Serie A with a 2-0 victory over Atalanta on Sunday afternoon.

The talismanic Swede opened the scoring 22 minutes into the game in Bergamo after strike partner Alexandre Pato had been felled in the area, and then turned provider for Kevin-Prince Boateng, who sealed victory for the visitors late on with a fine side-footed finish from an Ibrahimovic cut-back.

Both sides played their part in what was an enterprising and enthralling opening to the game but it was Atalanta who had the better early opportunities, with Simone Padoin twice firing over when well placed.

In the first instance, the winger could have been forgiven for his inaccuracy, Padoin getting under the ball as he attempted to test Christian Abbiati with a first-time effort from the edge of the box.

However, he really should have scored when his intelligent run in behind a stagnant Milan defence was picked out by Luca Cigarini’s wonderfully weighted through-ball from a free-kick on the right-hand side. Frustratingly for the home fans, though, Padoin did not even manage to get the ball on target.

Padoin’s profligacy was punished midway through the first half with a goal very much against the run of play.

The ball broke in the direction of Pato in the Atalanta area and, as he cleverly attempted to shield it, the Brazilian forward was needlessly bundled over by Thomas Manfredini.

Ibrahimovic stepped up to take the resulting spot-kick and found the bottom right corner to register his 12th goal of the season.

Milan would have been expected to take control thereafter but, in truth, it was not until the start of the second half that they threatened to add to their lead, Pato striking the post with a near-post effort from Urby Emanuelson’s header.

The let-off sparked Atalanta back into life, though, and Cigarini tested Abbiati with a  well-struck shot from distance before German Denis somehow managed to hit the post from a yard out at the back stick after a corner had been flicked on to him.

However, Milan weathered the storm and then secured the points when Ibrahimovic controlled a raking crossfield pass on his chest before taking the ball to the touch-line and cutting it back for Boateng to score.

The Italian champions remain just ahead of Juventus at the top of the table on goal difference going into next weekend's eagerly-awaited Milan derby.


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