Alexis Sanchez snatches all three points for Udinese with a fantastic late winner...Juventus' 2011 slump continues as a late Alexis Sanchez goal consigned them to their third defeat of the new year against Udinese this evening.
Claudio Marchisio put his side ahead with a stunning scissors kick on the hour, but Udinese refused to fold and snatched all the three points thanks to goals by Cristian Zapata and Sanchez.
Despite a fast-paced beginning, the first half was something of a tactical battle in which there was little in the way of goalmouth action or proper scoring opportunities as both sides fought for supremacy.
Udinese certainly started the brightest and used their extra man in midfield to great effect, as Gokhan Inler looked to get on the ball and spray raking passes wide to stretch the game, with the particular aim of finding Mauricio Isla’s runs in behind Fabio Grosso.
However, the move only really ended in one positive effort on goal as Isla swung over a left-footed cross for Pablo Armero on the opposite side, but the Colombian’s header was poor and bounced into the ground and well wide.
For their part, Juventus were struggling to get a foothold in the game until Leonardo Bonucci dispossessed Giampiero Pinzi 40 yards from goal in the 20th minute, strode forward and elected to shoot rather than pass to Milos Krasic to his right.
His decision elicited groans from the Juventus fans and fury from Krasic as the imposing defender dragged his shot well wide of goal.
But the effort appeared to raise Old Lady spirits, and from then on in, they began to dominate play without really breaching Udinese’s well-drilled defence.
Alessandro Del Piero was the first to draw a save of note when, in the 37th minute, he unleashed a powerful left-footed drive which Samir Handanovic did well to push wide for a corner, especially when the slick playing surface and bounce immediately prior to reaching him are taken in to consideration.
Handanovic was called into action again seconds later when he was forced to plunge to his right to smother Grosso’s angled drive and ensure that the sides would go in at the interval locked at 0-0.
The hosts stormed out of the blocks in the second 45, and Del Piero fired an early warning shot across Udinese bows when he cut in from the left and fired a right-footed shot a hair’s breadth wide of the upright.
But back came the Zebrette, and Antonio Di Natale came close to opening the scoring twice in the space of sixty seconds.
In the 54th minute, he raced onto Sanchez’s visionary slide-rule pass and blasted at goal, but Gianluigi Buffon raced from his line to block. Then, shortly afterwards, he found himself unmarked inside the box, controlled with his chest and placed a cute volley just wide of Buffon’s left-hand post.
The visitors were made to pay for the miss on the hour mark when Marchisio leapt to send an outrageous scissors-volley thundering into the net to make it 1-0 after Del Piero’s blocked shot sat up perfectly for him.
They weren’t in front for long, however, as Zapata swept home from close range in the 67th minute after he intelligently followed up on Buffon’s extraordinary save to deny Di Natale.
The match appeared to be heading for stalemate until Sanchez topped off a fantastic individual performance by side-footing Isla’s cut back past the Juventus custodian to secure all three points with five minutes left on the clock.
Bonucci and Sanchez were both shown red cards in a bizarre end to the match, but nothing could sour the night for Udinese, who leapfrog tonight’s opponents into sixth place in the table.
Both sides continue their assault on the European places when they return to Serie A action this coming Wednesday. Juventus travel to Sicily to face Palermo, while Udinese welcome Bologna to the Stadio Friuli the same evening.