|I finally did it! I’ve Scored! But I was, still am the Center of this Juve!
A sensational performance from Andrea Pirlo galvanised the Bianconeri to a priceless three points over Catania. The midfielder conjured up a response to Barrientos’ fourth-minute opener by slotting the ball home from a free-kick midway through the first-half. Chiellini then put Juventus in the driving seat with a header in the final twenty minutes before Quagliarella sealed victory in the closing stages. Conte made five changes from the team that drew in Parma on Wednesday. Lichtsteiner, Estigarribia, Matri and Vucinic dropped out of the starting line-up, while Vidal served a one-match suspension. Padoin, De Ceglie, Giaccherini, Borriello and Quagliarella came in as replacements. The Bianconeri made an energetic start to proceedings and could have gone in front inside the opening two minutes. Padoin, operating on the right-hand side of midfield, clipped in a cross which was flicked on by Quagliarella. Marchisio lurked just outside the six-yard box but sent his header over the bar. After weathering the early storm, Catania then seized the initiative and had three opportunities to take the lead. Buffon was twice called into action to thwart goalbound strikers from Izco and Almiron, but found himself beaten when Barrientos spun on the edge of the area and curled an unstoppable shot into the far corner.
The loyal home support reacted immediately and raised the volume at Juventus Stadium. Borriello went close with a spectacular acrobatic attempt, while Kosicky was required to block the striker’s goalbound header following a fine delivery by De Ceglie. The goal the Bianconeri’s determination deserved arrived in the 22rd minute when the visitors conceded a free-kick on the edge of the box. Pirlo stepped up and calmly stroked the ball into the bottom corner for his first goal since making a summer move from Milan. And the fans were on their feet again seven minutes later, as Quagliarella sent in a thunderous strike from 25 yards which left Kosicky motionless and rebounded back off the crossbar. But Conte’s men had to remain alert to the danger posed by Catania on the counter. Despite having amassed just one win on the road all season, Montella’s side appeared well-organised and fashioned a number of occasions to restore their advantage. The closest they came was in the 36th minute when Lodi combined with Barrientos on the edge of the area. The goalscorer charged in on goal and cracked a fierce effort against the upright. Pirlo continued to display his class after the break and almost gave Juventus the advantage from another set piece.
The midfield maestro crashed in a dipping 30-yard effort which clipped off the top of the bar with Kosicky well beaten. Juventus poured forward and had several half chances in their quest to find the breakthrough. Quagliarella and Borriello rued their misfortune in front of goal, while Giaccherini remained a threat with his driving runs from deep. The turning point came midway through the second period as Motta, returning to Juventus for the first time since his January loan switch to Sicily, was given his marching orders for a rash challenge by the touchline. Brighi had no hesitation in showing the full-back his second yellow card, leaving Catania down to ten men. And with Juventus knocking on the door, it was only a matter of time before the visitors’ rearguard crumbled – eight minutes in fact. Kosicky flapped from Pirlo’s corner and Chiellini stooped at the back post to send the Bianconeri faithful into ecstasy.
The collective relief could be felt and appeared to be transmitted to the players, who began to relax and play their usual brand of flowing football. This yielded goal number three, as Pirlo capitalised on a poor clearance from Kosicky to send Quagliarella clean through. The Napoli-born frontman kept his composure to slot the ball home and end any fears of a Catania revival. The victory puts Juventus back on top and keeps up the heat on Milan ahead of next weekend’s San Siro showdown.
JUVENTUS 3-1 CATANIA
GOALS: Barrientos 4, Pirlo 22, Chiellini 74, Quagliarella 81
JUVENTUS Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Giaccherini, Padoin (Pepe 61) , Pirlo, Marchisio, De Ceglie (Vucinic 67); Quagliarella, Borriello (Lichtsteiner 76) Substitutes not used: Storari, Caceres, Del Piero, Matri. Manager: Conte
CATANIA Kosicky; Motta, Bellusci, Legrottaglie, Marchese; Izco, Lodi (Spolli 60), Almiron; Gomez (Seymour 70), Bergessio, Barrientos (Biagianti 49) Substitutes not used: Carrizo, Ricchiuti, Catellani, Ebagua. Manager: Montella
REFEREE: Brighi ASSISTANTS: Tonolini, Barbirati FOURTH OFFICIAL: Gava BOOKINGS: Motta 51, Marchisio 61, Motta 65, Almiron 67, Vucinic 78 SENT OFF: Motta 65