A first half Simone Pepe strike proved enough to send Juventus a point clear of Udinese at the top of Serie A. The winger returned to silence the Stadio Olimpico after also hitting the winner in last year’s encounter. But the Bianconeri were required to draw on all their character and resilience as Lazio upped the pressure in the second half.
Antonio Conte was able to count on a full complement of players for the top-of-the-table clash, with injury doubt Pirlo passed fit to play his part in the encounter. Elsewhere, Barzagli and Bonucci were tasked with keeping a watchful eye on six-goal Klose, while Matri continued to spearhead the attack.
The hosts started the brighter of the two sides, pinning the Bianconeri back inside their own half as they looked to build attacks down the left hand side and use Hernanes to dictate the play. However, a driving run from Lichtsteiner provided the spark to ignite Juventus, with the Swiss full-back seeing his teasing delivery headed just over the bar by Marchisio.
By now, the balance had begun to tip in the Bianconeri’s favour, who swarmed forward with confidence and looked to take the game to their opponents. Matri went close to steering a low centre goalwards on 13 minutes, while Pirlo’s swerving free-kick was beaten away by Marchetti five minutes later.
But the hosts held firm and crept back into the affair. Buffon, however, had other ideas and dashed out to thwart Rocchi’s delicate chip which eventually rebounded off Barzagli’s midriff and bounced wide of the left-hand post. And on 29 minutes, the goalkeeper was down smartly again to stop Hernanes’ low drive.
In fact, it was Buffon who played a vital role in Juventus snatching the lead five minutes later, dealing magnificently with a one-on-one situation against Rocchi and setting the Bianconeri on the counter. Matri then galloped down the left and knocked a low centre into the path of the onrushing Pepe. And the winger kept his composure to slide the ball into the bottom corner for his third goal of the season.
The second half saw the Biancocelesti emerge as a different prospect altogether, no doubt inspired by Edy Reja’s words during the interval. Juventus struggled to regain their momentum and toiled to enjoy a consistent spell of possession. Hernanes was a relentless force operating behind the strike partnership and almost brought the hosts level with a fiercely struck attempt that bounced off the post.
Moments later, Klose skipped inside and curled a fine attempt towards goal. The German striker was left cursing his luck as another top drawer Buffon save kept the Bianconeri in front. Conte then responded by introducing Giaccherini to the action, signalling a comeback for the winger after a recent spell on the sidelines.
And Giaccherini had the best opportunity to extend Juve’s advantage on 73 minutes. Pepe moved inside and managed to pick out the substitute who was lurking in the penalty area. The winger swivelled and sent in a left-footed attempt but found Marchetti equal to it.
The closing stages of the game were broken up by stoppages for free-kicks as tempers almost threatened to boil over in a combative conclusion. But following four minutes of stoppage time, Rocchi blew his whistle and paved the way for Bianconeri celebrations.Conte’s men will enjoy their victory, built on the foundations of a battling display, but the hard work looks set to continue with Napoli next up on Tuesday.
LAZIO 0- 1 JUVENTUS
GOALS: Pepe 34
Marchetti; Konko, Stankevicius, Diakité, Radu; Brocchi (Gonzales 46), Ledesma, Lulic (Sculli 72); Hernanes; Rocchi (Cissé 65), Klose
Substitutes not used: Carrizo, Biava, Scaloni, Cana.
Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Marchisio, Pirlo, Vidal; Pepe (Estigarribia 81), Matri (Quagliarella 84), Vucinic (Giaccherini 66).
Substitutes not used: Storari, De Ceglie, Pazienza, Del Piero.
ASSISTANTS: Ghiandai, Giordano
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Damato
BOOKINGS: Marchisio 55, Ledesma 67, Sculli 79