Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Luca Cetta On May - 3 - 2012

Buffon’s Error Reopens Scudetto Race

Juventus drew 1-1 with Lecce in Round 36 of Serie A to see their gap at the top reduced to just one point with two matches remaining.

An awful Gianluigi Buffon error gave Andrea Bertolacci a simple goal with five minutes remaining, cancelling out an early opener from Claudio Marchisio.

Paolo De Ceglie had to be substituted almost instantly with a muscular complaint and Martin Caceres came on in his place. In the eighth minute Andrea Pirlo sent in a cross for Marchisio’s precise header into the far corner.

Arturo Vidal and Marchisio had chances to double the advantage in the first half and Juve were given a helping hand after the restart when Juan Cuadrado was sent off. Vidal wasted a glorious opportunity as he scuffed a shot as Fabio Quagliarella did well to volley goalward, but his effort was just over the top.

Then it happened. Lecce began to bring more numbers forward and Juve looked nervy. But there was little to suggest they would conjure a genuine chance. Yet when Andrea Barzagli played a routine pass back to Buffon, his touch was too heavy and Bertolacci dispatched the gift.

It was a Juve performance reminiscent of the home draws against Cagliari and Chievo – both also 1-1 – in which the Old Lady took an early lead but did not capitalise. And unlike the match versus Catania in which the opposition received a red card with the scores level, Juventus could not find a winner. Lecce – still a chance to avoid relegation – were not about to offer any gifts and so it was always looking likely to be a danger match.

However, if Buffon did not commit the error, it would be applauded as a clinical and professional performance at the business end of the season. The defence had little to do for yet another match. Lecce had just one shot - that being the goal – and so blame does not rest with the defensive efforts.

Besides his two dribbles – one which Buffon managed to squeeze away from early in the first half – Juve’s number one was again untested. Perhaps it was overconfidence, but Buffon was following team orders to never waste possession and always look for a short option. On this occasion, it backfired.

The midfield was flat. Vidal was busy but ineffective and whilst Marchisio shone, Pirlo’s passing was below its usual high standards, notably in the final ten minutes. From completing 133 passes against Novara, he dropped to 83 (still comfortably the game high).

Juventus were up against a packed Lecce rearguard, one intent on giving little away. This did not help the midfielders, wingbacks or the likes of Mirko Vucinic, Quagliarella and substitutes Alessandro Del Piero and Alessandro Matri, who all struggled for space.

Now Antonio Conte must ensure Buffon and the rest forget about what happened and focus on Cagliari in Trieste on Sunday. Like before, Juve’s situation remains the same – win two matches and claim the Scudetto. Whilst professing to Juve still being in control of their destiny, Conte will want to see the clinical Juve of their recent winning streak. His motivational qualities must come to the fore to ensure the Bianconeri are in the right condition mentally and are concentrating solely on vanquishing the Rossoblu, a match which may still clinch the Scudetto.

Simone Pepe and De Ceglie will be fighting to prove their fitness for the weekend clash. But Juve cannot think of Milan breathing down their necks, only that destiny is still in their hands. The dream still lives for Conte’s men.

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