Juventus sailed back to the top of Serie A with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Cesena. The Bianconeri dominated the affair from start to finish but toiled to breach a stubborn opposition rearguard. Marchisio broke the deadlock on 72 minutes, with Vidal’s penalty securing the three points seven minutes from time.While Conte opted for an unorthodox 3-5-2 against Napoli as a solution to deal with the absence of Marchisio, the return of the ‘Little Prince’ saw Juventus revert back to a more familiar 4-3-3 shape. Pazienza stepped in to anchor the midfield in place of the suspended Pirlo.
Juventus started in the ascendancy but struggled to break down their plucky opponents throughout a frustrating first half. The opening chance of the game fell to Matri, with the ex-Cagliari frontman sending an attempt skywards after just five minutes. The reinstated Marchisio almost broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark but saw his low strike take a deflection and arrow safely into the hands of Antonioli. And the goalkeeper was called into action moments later, watching a speculative lob from Vucinic all the way and gathering from just underneath the crossbar. The Montenegrin again went close on the stroke of half time, but failed to steer Bonucci’s header goalwards at the back post.The restart paved the way for more of the same.
Despite their lowly Serie A position, new Cesena coach Daniele Arrigoni has managed to instil some solidity into his new side. And the Seahorses defended admirably as the Bianconeri swarmed forward in numbers.Vucinic stung the fingertips of Antonioli with a long-range effort, with Pepe failing to capitalise on the rebound. The winger then squandered a fine opportunity to open the scoring, planting a header wide of the upright after Chiellini had picked him out at the back post.Conte elected to add some more bite to his attack, introducing Quagliarella and Del Piero in place of Matri and Vucinic respectively. The captain was afforded a rapturous reception but departed on a stretcher midway through the second half following a strong challenge by Rossi.
Undeterred, the Bianconeri stuck to their task and their persistence finally paid off with 18 minutes remaining. Marchisio, responsible for much of the team’s creative play, strode towards the penalty area, cut back and dispatched a low left-footed strike which flashed past Antonioli for his sixth goal of the season.With the deadlock finally broken, Juventus looked to extend their advantage and continued to throw bodies forward at every available opportunity. And ten minutes from time, Vidal did just that after Antonioli sent Giaccherini tumbling in the box. Doveri produced a straight red, Rodriguez donned the gloves and the Chilean kept his cool to give the Bianconeri a two-goal cushion on 83 minutes.
Conte’s men comfortably saw out the remainder of the game by stroking the ball around and frustrating their opposition. The victory sees Juventus overtake Udinese and Milan to go two points clear at the top of Serie A.
JUVENTUS 2-0 CESENA
GOALS: Marchisio 72, Vidal 83
JUVENTUSBuffon; Lichtsteiner, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Vidal, Pazienza, Marchisio; Pepe, Matri (Quagliarella 50), Vucinic (Del Piero 56, Giaccherini 63).Substitutes not used: Storari, De Ceglie, Estigarribia, Krasic.Manager: Conte
CESENAAntonioli; Rossi, Von Bergen, Rodriguez, Lauro; Ghezzal, Guana, Parolo, Martinho (Candreva 78); Bogdani (Malonga 46, Eder 78), Mutu.Substitutes not used: Calderoni, Ricci, Benalouane, L. Djokovic.Manager: Arrigoni
REFEREE: DoveriASSISTANTS: Bianchi, De Pinto
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Russo
BOOKINGS: Ghezzal 15, Rossi 29SENT OFF: Antonioli 83