Juve pull clear at the top
Juventus ground out a bad-tempered 1-0 victory over 10-man Catania to pull 14 points clear at the top on Sunday night.
Last Updated: 23/03/14 9:57pm
Juventus ground out a bad-tempered 1-0 victory over 10-man Catania to pull 14 points clear at the top of the Serie A table on Sunday night.
The reigning champions and likely winners of a third-straight Scudetto have struggled to put lesser opposition to bed in recent weeks and were uninspired when beating the league's bottom side.
Carlos Tevez did send three more points back to Turin with a typically fierce effort in the 59th minute and the chase was beyond Catania once striker Gonzalo Bergessio picked up a second yellow card.
It would be an ugly and attritional first half at the Stadio Angelo Massimino.
Neither side would reach half-time with their coach on the touchline as tempers flared and constant fouls distracted from the few glimpses of quality football.
Arturo Vidal clipped home within two minutes but the goal was ruled out thanks to a foul from Juve defender Leonardo Bonucci.
Hush descended when Andrea Pirlo prepared to take a free-kick in a dangerous position - the veteran playmaker has won Juve's last two games by a single goal from the dead-ball situation.
He whipped the ball over the crossbar, though, and Dani Osvaldo soon drove a left-footed effort just past a post.
Bergessio and Bonucci came to blows before the half-hour mark and, after the Catania striker escaped without a booking, coaches Antonio Conte and Rolando Maran protested furiously on the sidelines.
They were sent to the stands and Bergessio nearly had the last laugh when coming close to beating Marco Storari following a mix-up in the Juve box.
Another mix-up saw the Bianconeri waste a perfectly good chance to open the scoring before the break.
Pirlo sent Osvaldo through on goal in the 34th minute but, thinking he had somehow been caught offside, the striker passed the ball out of play when the goal was at his mercy.
Juve emerged after half-time full of attacking intent and soon went about taking control of the game.
Stephan Lichtsteiner's high ball forward met Osvaldo, who slammed it wide on the volley, but the striker came closer to scoring when snaffling another pass from the Swiss.
The Southampton loanee was involved as Juve broke the deadlock in the 59th minute, his header across the box to Tevez turning into a searing shot that left Mariano Andujar flapping at thin air.
As Catania toiled unsuccessfully to find the equaliser, the tension became too much for the combative Bergessio to bear and he walked in the 67th minute after clashing with Giorgio Chiellini.
Pirlo once again took aim with a free-kick and this time he found Andujar, who slapped the ball out for a corner.
Juve were in charge but knew they really needed a second goal to kill the game off.
It would not come from Vidal, who wasted Tevez's pass from the right, nor would the Argentinian striker put sorry Catania down when taking aim with his left boot at the end of a swift counter-attack.