Serie A: Pirlo magic keeps Juventus on track for scudetto
Andrea Pirlo produced a piece of free-kick magic to keep Juventus on track for a third consecutive scudetto thanks to a late 1-0 win away to Genoa on Sunday
Milan: Andrea Pirlo produced a piece of free-kick magic to keep Juventus on track for a third consecutive scudetto thanks to a late 1-0 win away to Genoa on Sunday.
Juventus looked to be heading for only their fourth draw of the season, having seen goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon save Emanuele Calaio's 72nd minute penalty and two other great earlier chances for the hosts.
However Antonio Conte's men were handed a lifeline when Fabio Quagliarella won a questionable free kick on the edge of the area, and Pirlo stepped up to send a curling drive over the wall and past the outstretched hands of Mattia Perin.
"We knew it would be a hard game but for us it was crucial to take the win back to Turin," Pirlo told Sky Italia before turning his focus on what his goal cold mean in terms of Juve's likely title chances.
"It was an important goal, I hope it helps."
Juventus now have 75 points and a 17-point lead on Roma, who host Udinese on Monday but also have a game in hand.
Napoli sit third, a further three points off the pace, ahead of their trip to Torino on Monday when Rafael Benitez's side will look to avoid any slip-ups following Fiorentina's 3-1 win Sunday night over outclassed Chievo.
Juan Cuadrado, Alessandro Matri and Mario Gomez were on target for La Viola, while Alberto Paloschi scored Chievo's only goal, who are back up to fourth but with only a one-point lead on Inter and a seven-point deficit to Napoli in the last Champions League spot.
Genoa looked determined to give no quarter to the Serie A champions, but in the process earned four yellow cards in the first half alone, during which two goals from Pablo Daniel Osvaldo were ruled offside.
Genoa continued to harry and were unfortunate when Bertolacci controlled well on the edge of the area only to send his shot straight at the advancing Buffon.
Juve had claims for a penalty waved away on 68 minutes when Fernando Llorente's cross hit the arm of Luca Antonelli.
Genoa won a penalty moments later due to a more convincing handball from Arturo Vidal, however Buffon was equal to Calaio's tame spot-kick.
When Quagliarella won a free kick at the death, Pirlo stepped up to hit his fourth goal of the season.
Conte did not underestimate the value of the win: "Only a big team like ours could come to this stadium and overcome a team that played the game of its life.
"I don't want to speak of the title, but we've taken another big step foward."
Earlier, former AC Milan striker Antonio Cassano struck a brace in a 4-2 win for Parma at 10-man Milan which dropped the Rossoneri to 12th, now 40 points behind Juve and 12 points off the first Europa League spot.
Defeat prompted dozens of angry fans to congregate outside Milan's shared San Siro ground to protest, some of whom got to meet under-fire coach Clarence Seedorf to vent their frustrations.
Seedorf, speaking to Sky Italia, played down the incident.
"It's a very delicate situation but it was a peaceful meeting and the fans who are close to the club have every right to express their feelings, before, during and after the match," Seedorf said.
Seedorf, who earlier this week complained he had inherited an "ailing" team from previous coach Massimiliano Allegri saw his side crash out of the Champions League after a 5-1 aggregate reverse to Atletico Madrid last week.
"I will defend this club to the hilt, as well as my players," added Seedorf.
"We have to look ahead in a positive way, continue to work hard and, with a little more attention to the details, try to get ourselves out of this negative spiral."
After Fiorentina's win, Parma dropped to sixth but are only one point behind Inter, 2-0 winners at Verona on Saturday, with a game in hand.
Lazio maintained their hopes of Europa League football with a 2-0 away win at Cagliari which kept the capital side five points behind Parma in seventh.