Juve Reach Serie A Summit With Hard Fought Win Over 9-Man Chievo

Juve is back to the top of the table after a challenging win over Chievo. 
Publish date:

Juventus continued on their fabulous unbeaten run, which now stretches to 21 matches in all competitions, with yet another league victory at Chievo's Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi. Two goals in the second half from German international Sami Khedira and Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain defeated a determined 9-man Chievo. 

Massimiliano Allegri's men went in to the match high on confidence having won their last five Serie A matches, although Juventus were unconvincing in their midweek victory over a stubborn Genoa side. Chievo found themselves 13th in the league, only six points outside the bottom three and in the middle of a concerning run of form having not won in their last six league matches, losing four. 

Rolando Maran only made two changes to his starting lineup, which was a slight surprise after Chievo's recent 5-1 capitulation to Lazio - Polish Under-21 defender PawelJaroszynski and experienced Dario Dainelli both starting. Juventus made four changes of their own, with Mattia De Sciglio, Andrea Barzagli, KwadwoAsamoah and Stefano Sturaro all recalled, while Stephan Lichtsteiner, Giorgio Chiellini, Alex Sandro and BlaiseMatuidi took their places on the bench. 

The home side started in a disciplined mood in front of their own passionate fans, who were generating a lively atmosphere, allowing their illustrious opponents to retain possession but only up to the final third of the pitch. After a clever pass by Juventus' Miralem Pjanic to striker Douglas Costa, the Brazilian created the first real opportunity of the match—curling a shot from the edge of the area narrowly over Stefano Sorrentino's bar.

All the visitors' good play was coming through Bosnian international Pjanic as he tried to orchestra the play in the center of the park with his range of passing, but Chievo continued to defend stubbornly with chances at a premium.  As the half progressed, the home side was visibly growing in confidence, keeping possession well and beginning to ask questions about Juve's defense—without unduly troubling Wojciech Szczesny in goal. 

Then an injection of impetus was given to the Italian champions in the 37th minute, Chievo's Samuel Bastian was awarded a second yellow card for pulling back Asamoah as he broke down the left flank, the young Belgian had received an earlier yellow for a needless elbow. 

As the half drew to a close, Juventus continued to be even more comfortable in possession with the additional man trying to stretch the play from one side of the pitch to the other, but unable to penetrate a defensive 'yellow wall' that remained content to frustrate.

The second half started with the visitors instantly on the front foot and showing increased urgency with their attacking intent. Lively wing play by Douglas Costa on the left flank in the 54th minute allowed Mario Mandzukic to shoot first time towards goal that drew a smart save from Sorrentino, which he smothered at the second attempt. 

Juventus were now dominating, passing the ball quicker and moving the Chievodefense out of position to create space. Then in the 61stminute, the home side was incredibly down to nine men when Fabrizio Cacciatore was sent off for dissent, showing a complete lack of discipline for over protesting. 

Le Zebra finally broke the resistance in the 67th minute which their pressure deserved, substitute Federico Bernardeschi pulled the ball back - after another intelligent pass from Pjanic—for the onrushing Sami Khedira to rifle home past the helpless Sorrentino. 

The Cacciatore's sending off really changed the pattern of the match, they were coping admirably with 10 men, the extra space and with the additional man sent off was just too enticing for Juventus to resist as they teased and probed for the rest of the match. 

To their credit Chievo defended resiliently and for all Juventus' pressure they simply refused to buckle as they were encamped in their own penalty area for sustained periods of time. Eventually, in the 88th minute, Higuain headed in the second from a delightful Costa cross to confirm the victory.

Saturday night's win ensures Le Zebre temporarily lead Serie A by two points, with Napoli at home to Bologna on Sunday afternoon. Juve are next in action on Tuesday night as they travel to play Atalanta in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi final.