Claudio Marchisio added another goal in the best season of his career so far and Arturo Vidal converted a controversial penalty as Juventus beat Cesena 2-0 on Sunday to reclaim the Serie A lead.
Cesena’s 42-year-old goalkeeper, Francesco Antonioli, had kept Juventus in check until Marchisio fired in a long shot between two defenders with his weaker left foot in the 72nd minute in Turin.
It was Marchisio’s sixth goal of the season, drawing him even closer to the player he is most often compared to — former Juve midfielder Marco Tardelli, who scored eight goals in a campaign twice during the early 1980s and helped lead Italy to the 1982 World Cup title.
Marchisio was once a questionable selection for Italy’s national team under former coach Marcello Lippi, but he has developed into a reliable presence in the center of the pitch for both the Azzurri and the Bianconeri, having scored in Italy’s 1-1 draw in Serbia in October.
“Marchisio did well,” Cesena coach Daniele Arrigoni said. “We had played an orderly match, but we hadn’t constructed any chances. Then, just when it seemed the match was headed [toward a draw], he scored.”
In the 80th minute, Antonioli punched away a cross and then collided with Juventus forward Emanuele Giaccherini, receiving a red card that set up a penalty for Vidal, despite vehement protests from Cesena.
Cesena had already used all three of their substitutions, so defender Guillerme Rodriguez had to put on Antonioli’s jersey and gloves for Vidal’s penalty. They were not of much use, though, as Rodriguez moved to his right and Vidal easily knocked the ball into the other corner of the net.
“The penalty took away our chance to come back in the last 10 minutes,” Arrigoni said. “From the bench it didn’t seem like a penalty or a red card to me. The problem is that now we lose our goalkeeper for the next match.”
Juventus moved two points ahead of AC Milan and Udinese at the top of the table and they remain the only unbeaten team in Serie A, with Sunday’s win all the more impressive since it came without key midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who was suspended.
Juventus finished seventh last season and missed out on Europe, but new coach Antonio Conte has made the 27-time champions contenders again.
“This result shows that we’re maturing,” Conte said. “When you try every which way to score, you risk making yourself nervous and getting anxious. I told the players during the break not to let their nerves get to them and to move wider. I looked at the statistics and we had 70 percent of the ball possession and 21 shots. We’re improving day by day.”
The only negative moment for Juve came when captain Alessandro del Piero was carried off in the 62nd minute after being bloodied by a kick to the face from defender Marco Rossi, opening a wound above his left eye that required eight stitches.
Meanwhile, Fiorentina beat eight-man AS Roma 3-0 after goals from Stevan Jovetic, Alessandro Gamberini and Santiago Silva.
Roma were reduced to 10 men when Juan was shown a straight red card for pushing Jovetic down in the 15th minute, even though Jovetic appeared to be holding Juan’s jersey. Jovetic converted the ensuing penalty and Gamberini doubled the lead in the 44th minute, leaping over Roma defender Gabriel Heinze to head in a corner.
Having missed all of last season following knee surgery, Jovetic has six goals this campaign. Gamberini, meanwhile, has now scored three times — the only goals he has scored in the past five seasons — against Roma.