Juventus 1-0 Cagliari: Giorgio Chiellini Keeps Juventus In Champions League Hunt(Goal.com)
Juventus earned a 1-0 win over Cagliari in Serie A to stay involved in the hunt for European places. Defender Giorgio Chiellini scored the decisive goal in the first-half in a tight encounter with few chances.
Gianluigi Buffon made is long-awaited return to the line-up, along with centre-back Chiellini as both got the nod from the start. There were a few less options in midfield, as Diego was injured and Mohamed Sissoko suspended.
Cagliari coach Massimiliano Allegri had a near full lineup available.
The first 10 minutes were devoid of chances for either side, but Cagliari took the initiative as a half-clearance by Fabio Cannavaro landed at the feet of Andrea Cossu, who struck the ball with the outside of his foot and hit the crossbar.
La Vecchia Signora were finding it difficult to create, but it was Mauro Camoranesi who looked the liveliest of the Juve midfield when his left foot strike forced Federico Marchetti to tip over the bar.
Cossu sent Alessandro Matri through on goal, but Buffon did well to cut down the angle and Cannavaro rushed back to make a fine clearance.
Cagliari would be made to rue missed chances on 36 minutes. Chiellini had stayed forward following a freekick and a long-ball was sent back in the area and flicked on by Amauri for the defender to head over the goalkeeper and into the net.
Juventus began to grow in confidence and after some intricate play Claudio Marchisio's curling effort flew over the bar from the edge of area as the half came to a close.
The second-half started with Buffon showing quick reactions to leap off his line and claim the ball before Nene could pounce.
Somehow Nene failed to equalise from less than six yards on the hour mark. After a perfect cross by Alessandro Agostini, the Brazilian did not make proper contact and the ball slid wide to the relief of the home fans.
Substitute Andrea Lazzari had an immediate effect. The playmaker stole the ball in midfield and sparked a counter, but Matri's header was off target.
Camoranesi slipped past two defenders and played a perfect defence-splitting pass for Iaquinta, but his control was once again lacking on a lacklustre afternoon for the striker.
Juventus had a goal disallowed with 20 minutes remaining. A corner was mishandled by Marchetti and Chiellini directed the ball towards goal, but Iaquinta finished the move while in a clear offside position. That was his last action of the match as he was replaced by Sebastian Giovinco.
A chipped ball into the area from a set-piece found the unmarked Biondini, but the angle was too tight for the midfielder to shoot on target and the chance went begging.
In the final stages, Giovinco had the chance to extend Juve's lead, but was foiled by Marchetti.
The result means Juventus leap ahead of Napoli in the table and their Champions League aspirations remain intact.