Winter champions!

Juventus have guaranteed to go into the second half of the season as league leaders after securing a commanding win in Bergamo. Goals from Lichtsteiner and Giaccherini were enough to see off Stefano Colantuono’s spirited outfit and maintain the Bianconeri’s grip on top spot. It proved to be another winning return for Antonio Conte – who coached the Nerazzurri for a spell in the 2009/10 campaign – following victories in Siena and Lecce. Conte made just one change to the side which drew at home with Cagliari last Sunday. De Ceglie’s impressive performance at left-back saw him maintain his place, while Chiellini returned from suspension to partner Barzagli at the heart of the Bianconeri defence. Bonucci dropped to the bench. 

The visitors got off to a scintillating start and carved out several opportunities to take the lead inside the opening quarter of an hour. With just two minutes on the clock, Vucinic advanced towards the area and slid the ball out wide to Pepe. The winger centred into the path of Matri, who blasted over the bar from close range. The striker then repaid the favour shortly afterwards but saw Pepe drag his shot wide of goal. Vucinic then got in on the action and tested Consigli’s reflexes with a strong left-footed strike from a tight angle. 

The Nerazzurri shot-stopper was equal to it and palmed the ball behind for a corner. Vidal offered his usual dynamism and commitment in midfield, and was desperately unlucky to see his spectacular long range drive cannon back off the crossbar shortly before the break. Buffon was rarely tested throughout the first period, dealing comfortably with a couple of long range strikes from Bonaventura and an ambitious bicycle kick from Ferri. The hosts created their best chance towards the end of the first half, when in-form Denis rifled Moralez’s centre just past the post. Conte opted to withdraw Marchisio at the interval, sending on Giaccherini in his place. And the former Cesena man had an instant impact, showing an added attacking impetus and looking to break forward as often as possible. 

But it was his midfield partner who took the plaudits for the Bianconeri’s opener. Pirlo displayed fine vision and pinpoint accuracy to pick out the run of Lichtsteiner, who was left with the simple task of planting a header past Consigli for his second goal of the campaign. It could have been two moments later, with only a superb last-ditch defensive intervention preventing Matri from extending Juve’s advantage. The manager was then forced into his second change of the game after Pepe was crudely scythed down by Peluso. Marrone was asked to step into midfield as Giaccherini pushed forward into the three-pronged attack. And inside the final ten minutes, the Italy Under-21 midfielder emulated Pirlo’s brilliance by picking out Giaccherini’s forward burst to perfection. 

The summer arrival, however, was equal to Marrone’s class and kept his cool to steer a volleyed effort home. The two-goal cushion took the wind out of Atalanta’s sails and allowed Conte’s men to comfortably see out the remainder of the game. Credit, in particular, must go to the fine defensive display, in which Barzagli and Chiellini successfully nullified the threat posed by 12-goal frontman Denis. The result sees the Bianconeri open up a four-point lead at the top of Serie A, with second-placed Milan due to take on Novara tomorrow afternoon. 


GOALS: Lichtsteiner 55, Giaccherini 83 

ATALANTA Consigli; Raimondi, Ferri, Manfredini, Peluso; Schelotto (Ferreira Pinto 77), Cigarini, Padoin, Bonaventura (Marilungo 62); Moralez (Gabbiadini 83), Denis. Substitutes not used: Frezzolini, Minotti, Stendardo, Tiribocchi. Manager: Colantuono 

JUVENTUS Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Barzagli, Chiellini, De Ceglie; Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio (Giaccherini 46); Pepe (Marrone 64), Matri, Vucinic (Bonucci 86). Substitutes not used: Storari, Krasic, Del Piero, Borriello. Manager: Conte 

REFEREE: Celi from Bari ASSISTANTS: Grilli, Rosi FOURTH OFFICIAL: Rocchi BOOKINGS: Lichtsteiner 1, Marilungo 67

The Problem with the First Half is fixed now. Enjoy the Game!