Mike, this Win is for You also! (Grazie mille Alessandro ūüôā )

Juventus have strengthened their grip on top spot with a 2-1 win over Udinese. Two goals from Alessandro Matri proved enough to overcome a well-organised Udinese outfit who had found a way back into the encounter through Floro Flores’ effort shortly after the restart. On a bitterly cold evening in Turin, the Bianconeri’s heart shone through to lift the team to another positive result. Antonio Conte opted to keep with the 3-5-2 system that was instrumental in bringing an end to Udinese’s 100 per cent home record in December. Lichtsteiner and Estigarribia occupied the wing-back roles, Vidal and Giaccherini supported Pirlo in midfield, while Quagliarella partnered Matri up front. Despite the sub-zero temperatures, the Bianconeri were quick out of the traps and brought Handanovic into action within the opening two minutes. Quagliarella showed good vision to pick out Estigarribia’s burst through the middle. 

The Paraguayan steadied himself before dispatching a low strike goalwards, but Udinese’s goalkeeper was equal to it and dashed out to narrow the angle. Udinese soon began to creep into the game and fashioned two goalscoring opportunities in the same amount of minutes. A flowing forward move eventually saw the ball drop to the feet of Abdi, whose rising effort was tipped over for a corner by Buffon. Juve’s shot-stopper was again called into action just seconds later, this time sprawling low to his right to turn Armero’s fizzing strike just past the post. Juventus’ best chance to break the deadlock came midway through the first half. Matri was played clear through on goal but the striker’s first touch was a fraction too heavy which gave Handanovic the chance to scamper out of goal and smother the danger. But the former Cagliari frontman did not have to wait too much longer to make amends. 

Shortly before the interval, Estigarribia’s teasing cross from the left flank was directed goalwards by Quagliarella. Handanovic again pulled off a fine save, but this time his efforts were all in vain as Matri was on hand to pounce and tuck the ball home from close range. The Bianconeri started the second half with the same high tempo and kept their visitors under pressure with a succession of dangerous deliveries into the penalty area. However, Udinese resisted the initial threat and began to pose some questions of their own. And these were answered courtesy of an equaliser ten minutes following the restart. Isla capitalised on Bianconeri hesitancy in the middle of the park and drove forward from deep. He found the recently introduced Floro Flores peeling off to the left, who kept his cool to place a neat strike inside the far post. In fact, it could have got even worse for Juventus just five minutes later. More uncertainty saw the ball worked through to Armero who spotted Isla’s purposeful burst down the right flank. 

The Chilean‚Äôs cross was touched goalwards by Di Natale, but the striker failed to make full contact and his attempt looped over the bar. Conte reacted to the increased threat posed by the visitors and sent on Marchisio in place of Quagliarella. And the presence of the ‚ÄėLittle Prince‚Äô, featuring for the first time since limping off in Bergamo, saw the Bianconeri regain the lead. Vidal looked up from a wide position and centred the ball. Marchisio was the first to react and touched down for Matri. The striker then shrugged off the attentions of his marker to twist and guide a well-placed left-footed effort past Handanovic, sending Juventus Stadium into raptures. The second goal appeared to take the wind out of Udinese‚Äôs sails, and the Bianconeri continued to trouble their opponents with their desire to grind out all three points. Barzagli, in particular, was the perfect example of this, proving a formidable force at the heart of Juve‚Äôs defensive trio. Conte‚Äôs men, reinforced by the introduction of Pepe and De Ceglie towards the closing stages, held out to celebrate another fundamental success. The win sees Juventus go four points clear at the top ahead of Sunday‚Äôs Serie A action, with a tough trip to Parma next up on Tuesday.¬†

 JUVENTUS 2-1 UDINESE 

 GOALS: Matri 42, Floro Flores 55, Matri 62 

 JUVENTUS Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner (De Ceglie 82), Vidal, Pirlo, Giaccherini, Estigarribia (Pepe 64); Matri, Quagliarella (Marchisio 61). Substitutes not used: Storari, Marrone, Del Piero, Borriello. Manager: Conte 

UDINESE Handanovic; Ferronetti, Danilo, Domizzi (Batocchio 73); Basta, Isla (Pereyra 85), Fernandes, Armero, Pasquale; Abdi (Floro Flores 46); Di Natale. Substitutes not used: Padelli, Neuton, Ekstrand, Torje. Manager: Guidolin 

REFEREE: Valeri ASSISTANTS: Faverani, Stefani FOURTH OFFICIAL: Gervasoni 

BOOKINGS: Fernandes 19, Vidal 25, Giaccherini 34, Ferronetti 51, Isla 53, Armero 89