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    Juventus see off spirited Atalanta

    New Delhi: Juventus closed the gap on leaders Inter Milan to six points, as goals from Alessandro Del Piero, Nicola Legrottaglie and Amauri saw off a spirited Atalanta side.

    Juventus travelled to Bergamo knowing that they really needed to win in order to cut Inter's lead at the top back down to six points.

    However, Claudio Ranieri's crippling injury list had lengthened as he was without Andrade, Zebina, Trezeguet, Buffon, Knezevic, Poulsen, Tiago, Camoranesi, Nedved, and Iaquinta. Youngsters Paolo De Ceglie and Claudio Marchisio kept their places, while Alex Del Piero partnered Amauri up-front.

    Atalanta had an excellent home record, having won six and drawn one of their eight matches at the Azzurri d'Italia before Sunday. The Nerazzurri once again looked towards star attacking duo Cristiano Doni and Sergio Floccari, but they were without the injured D'Agostino and Cigarini, as well as the suspended Bellini and Rivalta.

    First Half

    Atalanta almost scored within the first couple of minutes as Cristiano Doni whipped a free kick over the wall that curled just centimetres past the post.

    Alex Manninger then came to Juventus' rescue with a great reflex save from Floccari, who had pounced on Giorgio Chiellini's slip.

    Juventus had the ball in the back of the net on 10 minutes as Chiellini headed home from Marco Marchionni's cross, but the goal was chalked off for offside.

    However, minutes later, Floccari missed a glorious chance to put Atalanta ahead, as he headed over unmarked from six yards.

    Floccari was causing Chiellini all kinds of problems, and a brilliant 'Cruyff turn' on 20 minutes left the defender for dead, and ended with Manninger being forced into another smart save at his near post.

    Juve were only threatening off set-pieces, and Chiellini twice headed wide from corners, while Amauri nodded over from a free kick.

    Bang on the half-hour mark Juventus broke the deadlock with their first serious attack from open play. Momo Sissoko released Marchionni down the right, and the winger crossed into the box for Del Piero to tap home. The home side protested, claiming that Marchionni was offside, and replays, although not providing the correct camera angle, suggested they may have had a point.

    Atalanta failed to recover from this setback, and seven minutes later they fell further behind. Nicola Legrottaglie soared above his man from Del Piero's corner and produced an unstoppable header past Ferdinando Coppola.

    The remainder of the half played out without too much drama, as Juventus went in at the break two goals to the good.

    Second Half

    Atalanta coach Gigi Delneri made two changes at half time, introducing Christian Vieri and Diego De Ascentis for Talamonti and Valdes.

    It was an inspired move as three minutes later Vieri headed home from a left-wing corner to re-open the game.

    The home side were rampant at the start of the second half, and Floccari asked for a penalty as he ran past Marchionni and Mellberg, but the referee turned his head.

    Juve really had a game on, and upped the tempo, with Amauri forcing a save out of Coppola with a bicycle kick.

    Floccari was still a real danger though and he latched onto Tiberio Guarente's pass, but shot straight at Manninger from an impossible angle.

    However, with 10 minutes remaining, Juventus closed the game for certain, as Amauri rose above his man at the back post to head past Coppola from Marchionni's free kick.

    There was little else to report from the remainder of the game, as Atalanta accepted their fate. Juventus close the gap on leaders Inter to six points, and can now enjoy their Christmas and New Years Holidays.


    Atalanta: Coppola, Garics, Talamonti (De Ascentis 46), Manfredini, Pellegrino, Ferreira Pinto, Guarente, Padoin, Valdes (Vieri 46), Doni, Floccari

    Juventus: Manninger, Mellberg, Legrottaglie, Chiellini, Molinaro, Camoranesi, Marchisio (Zanetti 87), Sissoko, De Ceglie (Salihamidzic 73), Del Piero, Amauri


    Del Piero 30 (J)

    Legrottaglie 37 (J)

    Vieri 48 (A)

    Amauri 80 (J)

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