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Empoli 0-2 Juventus: The Old Lady wins on her birthday

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Andrea Pirlo scored a beautiful free-kick goal before Alvaro Morata sealed the win for Juventus at Stadio Carlo Castellani.

Gabriele Maltinti

Juventus received some great news before coming into Saturday night's match: Roma lost 2-0 away at Napoli. Playing against a bottom four club seemed like the perfect chance to make that result matter and the Old Lady managed to secure the three points by virtue of Pirlo and Morata’s magic moments. Having previously registered two consecutive set-backs, losing away at Olympiakos and at Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa, Max Allegri’s men had to make sure they would keep the bandwagon on track.

Allegri decided to make four changes to the starting XI which lost to Genoa. Roberto Pereyra started on the right wing, giving Stephan Lichtsteiner a rest, while Andrea Pirlo regained his regista role, forcing Claudio Marchisio to move in centre-left of midfield in Paul Pogba’s place. As both Carlos Tévez and Fernando Llorente were on the bench, Sebastian Giovinco and Alvaro Morata was the partnership chosen to start upfront, in the hope of giving Juventus an extra bit of creativity which the team seriously lacked in recent matches.

After a horrendous first half in which Juventus couldn’t create a decent chance, playing some lacklustre football, a wake-up call must have been given in the locker room as the players came in after the break with more determination. It was Old Lady’s 117th birthday in the end – she needed to have a nice anniversary present. Eventually, Pirlo and Morata took care of it.

Having mentioned Morata, it looks pretty clear that he and Tévez form the best attacking duo at the moment. Giovinco tried a lot today, but with limited results, while Fernando Llorente is still struggling with form. Allegri also has some other problems at the moment, though. Both Angelo Ogbonna and Kwadwo Asamoah picked-up injuries today. Hopefully, it is nothing serious and they won’t join Andrea Barzagli, Martin Caceres, Luca Marrone, Patrice Evra and Simone Pepe on the injury list. Way too many defenders there already!

MATCH SUMMARY

It was a very quiet start of the game with Empoli allowing Juventus to control possession but the lack of pace in their attacking actions made it easier for the home side to defend.

Giovinco first tried his luck after 5 minutes but his shot was easily held by goalkeeper Bassi and just moments, the diminutive striker received a good pass from Arturo Vidal but his effort was blocked inside the area.

Empoli had a lonely chance in the first half, after 20 minutes, when Piotr Zielinski’s shot from just outside the area forced Gianluigi Buffon into making a diving save. With just over 30 minutes played, Morata used his pace to skip past two defenders and opened Vidal on the left but the Chilean’s shot went wide.

As the break was getting closer, Juventus forced an opening but couldn’t create anything dangerous and the teams went to the locker rooms with nothing to separate them.

Right from the start of the second half, Allegri was forced to replace Angelo Ogbonna with Lichtsteiner, as the centre-back couldn’t shake off an injury picked-up in the first half after a collision with Giorgio Chiellini.

Vidal received a yellow card after 53 minutes for a miss-timed tackle just outside Juventus’ area, meaning the Chilean will be suspended for the next game against Parma.

The first big chance of the game for Juventus came 10 minutes into the second half. Kwadwo Asamoah forced his way through on the left side before testing Bassi from a tight angle. The goalkeeper parried the ball away straight to Marchisio’s feet, whose shot from inside the area went just wide. Shortly afterwards, the Old Lady missed another good chance as Chiellini’s header, following a Pirlo corner-kick, shaved the outside of the post.

Juventus finally broke the deadlock on the hour mark: Giovinco won a free-kick just outside the penalty area and Andrea Pirlo stepped-up to take it. The bearded master didn’t waste the chance to close in on Sinisa Mihajlovic’s record of 28 free-kick goals in Seire A, curling his shot over the wall and past Bassi, giving the visitors the lead, with his 26th free-kick goal.

Empoli almost equalised five minutes later, but Buffon had a fantastic reaction to save Manuel Pucciarelli’s deflected shot from 10 yards out.

Tévez replaced Giovinco after 68 minutes and made an instant impact as he combined with Morata on a counter attack, then struck his shot at the far post, forcing a save from Bassi. Marchisio followed the rebound but only managed to hit the post from close range with a diving shot.

Just moments later, Morata scored the second of the game with a superb shot from inside the area. The Spaniard received a pass from Tévez, took a short touch to prepare his strike and blasted it past Bassi, with the ball taking a slight deflection from a defender on its way in.

Juventus kept control of the game after scoring the second and were close to a third with ten minutes from time when Tévez pulled another save from Bassi with a powerful effort from 20 yards out.

Buffon was quick off his line to make another good save and deny Francesco Tavano, moments before Lorenzo Tonelli was sent off in the last minute of injury time for a last-man foul on Tévez. Pirlo took the free-kick again but he sent the ball over the bar and referee Paolo Valeri blew the whistle for full time.

LE PAGELLE

Buffon: 7 Managed a superb save to deny Pucciarelli and keep the lead intact, paving the way for Juventus’ second

Ogbonna: 6 Had basically nothing to do in the first half as Empoli created close to nothing, but was replaced at half time because of an injury

Bonucci: 6 Decent display, despite allowing both Pucciarelli and Tavano to have a go at Buffon

Chiellini: 6.5 Made a great last-man tackle in the first half and restricted his runs forward today

Pereyra: 6.5 The Argentine ran at the opposite defenders nicely on a few occasions, but couldn’t find a good delivery for the attackers

Vidal: 6.5 Despite a poor first half, managed seven successful tackles throughout the game but also got booked.

Pirlo: 7 Looked very shaky too often, playing well below his usual game while the scoreline was 0-0. Saved his and Juventus’ day with a great free-kick.

Marchisio: 6.5 Missed a good chance at the start of the second half but was unlucky for him to hit the post from close range

Asamoah: 6 Quiet game from the Ghanaian who also suffered a late injury, needed to be replaced with Padoin

Giovinco: 6.5 Won the free-kick from which Pirlo scored and attempted a few shots but couldn’t quite pose a threat for Bassi. Replaced by Tevez with 20 minutes to go

Morata: 7.5 Was very lively throughout, showing great technique and pace. Scored with a beautiful strike to seal the win

Subs

Lichtsteiner: 6.5 Was forced to play at centre-back but had some decent 45 minutes

Tévez: 7 Great impact from the Argentine. Sparked Juventus’ attack and Assisted Morata’s goal

Padoin: N/A Came in late for the injured Asamoah and managed to draw a yellow card for Empoli’s Hisaj

Coach

Allegri: 6 Made a few needed changes to the line-up which lost to Genoa, starting Morata who rewarded him with a goal, but the team still couldn’t produce anything in the first half. Inspired to give Tévez a decent amount of playing time, but has to thank Pirlo for the early rescue