Salutate la Capolista!

A sensational free-kick from substitute Alessandro Del Piero lifted Juventus back to the top of Serie A in dramatic fashion. With the score locked at 1-1 on 83 minutes, the captain, making his 700th appearance for the club, stepped forward to curl an unstoppable effort past Marchetti and send Juventus Stadium into raptures. The Bianconeri had taken the lead midway through the first-half courtesy of Pepe’s well-executed finish, but were made to fight for the three points after Mauri levelled affairs on the stroke of half-time. Conte opted to change formation from the 3-5-2 used in Saturday’s commanding 2-0 victory over Palermo. Lichtsteiner came in at right-back, while Pepe accompanied Quagliarella and Vucinic in a three-pronged attack. Juventus began with the customary confidence and enterprising football that has characterised their play throughout the season. Bodies swarmed forward in numbers, looking to put Lazio’s injury-hit rearguard to the test. It took ten minutes for the hosts, in search of their fifth consecutive victory, to fashion their first meaningful attempt on goal. 

The in-form Quagliarella gathered the ball from outside the area and fired in a shot which bounced awkwardly before being clawed away by Marchetti. And the goalscoring chances became increasingly frequent as the Bianconeri settled into their rhythm. Pepe was next to go close, latching onto Vidal’s toe-poked through ball before steering a low shot straight into the arms of the goalkeeper. But a minute later, the winger made amends for his missed opportunity after springing the Lazio offside trip. Pirlo’s chip into the area found Pepe unmarked and he kept his cool to take one touch before lashing a stunning acrobatic effort past Marchetti. The Biancocelesti had barely kicked off when Vidal almost extended Juve’s lead with an audacious long-range attempt which had Marchetti backpedalling to scramble the ball over the bar. 

And the fans were soon on their feet again as Quagliarella turned Lichtsteiner’s cut-back goalwards, only for Diakite to throw his body on the line and make a last-ditch block. But with half-time looming, the visitors stunned Juventus Stadium by snatching an equaliser entirely against the run of play. Mauri was the first to react to a cross from the right flank and made no mistake, planting a firm header past Buffon. 

The restart yielded more of the same. Juventus continued to apply the pressure but were now up against a Biancocelesti outfit who had retreated deep into their own half in order to preserve a point. Yet Conte’s men remained patient and applied the pressure in search of an opening. This almost came when Vidal’s clever lob sent Lichtsteiner through on goal, but the full-back thrashed a miscued attempt wide of the target. Sensing a change could unlock the spirited Lazio rearguard, Conte brought on Matri and Del Piero in place of Pepe and Vucinic. 

he captain was instantly involved in proceedings, exchanging passes with Vidal before drawing a save from Marchetti at his near post. With the tension increasing towards the end of a combative fixture, the Bianconeri won a free-kick 30 yards from goal. Del Piero, who had already tested his range with a number of crossfield passes, stepped up to the ball as the stadium drew a collective deep breath. The captain then strode forward to secure all three points with a sublime right-footed strike that nestled into the far corner. The result edges the Bianconeri one point clear of rivals Milan and puts Conte’s men back in pole position for the ultimate prize.


GOALS: Pepe 29, Mauri 45, Del Piero 83 

JUVENTUS Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Vidal (Giaccherini 80), Pirlo, Marchisio; Pepe (Matri 72),Vucinic (Del Piero 72), Quagliarella. Substitutes not used: Storari, Caceres, De Ceglie, Borriello. Manager: Conte 

LAZIO Marchetti; Scaloni, Diakitè, Biava, Garrido; Cana, Ledesma; Gonzalez (Brocchi 81), Mauri (Hernanes 72), Candreva; Rocchi (Kozak 74). Substitutes not used: Bizzarri, Zauri, Brocchi, Matuzalem, Alfaro. Manager: Reja 

REFEREE: Damato ASSISTANTS: Stefani, Faverani FOURTH OFFICIAL: Orsato BOOKINGS: Diakitè 12, Biava 34, Lichsteiner 47, Chiellini 49, Mauri 54, Quagliarella 56, Kozak 80, Ledesma 81, Kozak 93 SENT OFF: Kozak 93