Late show by Llorente rescues misfiring Juventus
By Justin Davis ,AFP
December 3, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
MILAN -- An injury-time header from Spain striker Fernando Llorente rescued misfiring Juventus in a 1-0 win over Udinese that sent the champions three points clear of Roma in Italy's Serie A on Sunday.
Early season pacesetters Roma had spurned the chance to regain top spot earlier when Rudi Garcia's men had to settle for their fourth draw in succession, 1-1 away to Atalanta.
Juve seized the chance to widen the gap but missed an embarrassing amount of chances before Llorente secured the points after heading Stephan Lichesteiner's shot past Zeljko Brkic in second-half injury time.
Juve's 12th win of the season — their sixth consecutively, all with clean sheets — leaves them three points clear of Roma with Napoli in third, a further six points adrift, ahead of their trip to Lazio on Monday when Fiorentina, in fifth, also host Verona.
Juve had relaunched their Champions League last-16 bid with a 3-1 win over FC Copenhagen in midweek and after Roma's slip-up, Antonio Conte's men needed no reminding of what would be required against Francesco Guidolin's men.
However, Udinese put plenty of men behind the ball as Juve pressed and came close to stunning the champions more than once on the counter-attack.
Juve suffered an early blow when midfielder Andrea Pirlo was forced off with an apparent knock to his knee, to be replaced by Paul Pogba, but the hosts should have gone in for the half-time interval several goals to the good.
Carlos Tevez was a constant threat and when Claudio Marchisio laid the ball off for the Argentinian on the edge of the area, he stung Brkic's hands with a first-time drive that was eventually cleared to safety.
Tevez then spun a tame shot wide after Llorente had held off two defenders.
Juve survived a scare on the half hour when defender Leonardo Bonucci lost possession to Antonio Di Natale just outside the area, when goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had to be at full stretch to halt the striker's cheeky lob.
Juve's frustrations continued immediately after the restart, Llorente getting his foot to Arturo Vidal's cross and depriving Tevez, waiting to strike to the Spaniard's left, of a chance at a half-volley yards from goal.
Buffon then came to the rescue on a Udinese counter, the keeper punching out Bruno Fernandes's cross and, after Di Natale collected, reacting quickly to stop the striker's drive.
Lichsteiner made his long-awaited return from injury when he replaced Simone Padoin just before the hour and after Tevez and Pogba saw shots blocked by the Udinese defence, the visitors threatened again.
Di Natale showed fine skill to set up Andrea Lazzari on the left and Buffon had to be at full stretch to tip his angled drive to safety.
With 15 minutes remaining Conte replaced wing back Paolo De Sceglie with Fabio Quagliarella but before the striker came close for Juve, Lazzari forced Buffon down low to his left with a rasping daisy-cutter from distance.
Juve replied with three chances within minutes, a Tevez free kick curling just over Brkic's crossbar while the keeper parried Quagliarella's curling drive before seeing Lichsteiner's angled strike sail wide of the upright.
Juve's frustrations were finally ended when Llorente reacted quickly to Lichsteiner's shot from the edge of the area to head past the wrong-footed Brkic.