Pirlo and Juve reborn in Empoli


Juventus capitalised on Roma's afternoon defeat to re-establish a three-point lead in Serie A by beating 10-man Empoli 2-0 at Stadio Carlo Castellani. The Italian champions' outright dominance of the league table disappeared last weekend thanks to their shock loss at Genoa, a result which allowed Roma to join them in a share of first place. The capital club went down 2-0 at Napoli on Saturday, however, meaning goals from Andrea Pirlo and Alvaro Morata in Tuscany handed the initiative back to the Bianconeri in this year's title race. Empoli, who lost defender Lorenzo Tonelli to a needless red card at the death, remain in 17th place and could be sucked into the relegation zone on Sunday. The first half was cagier than many spectators might have expected with only Giorgio Chiellini's header causing any real concern to the scoreline. Juve did raid forward often, and Sebastian Giovinco could have done more with Arturo Vidal's ball inside while defender Angelo Ogbonna fizzed a shot just wide on a rare mission into the final third. Chiellini rose above everyone to nod the ball straight at Davide Bassi shortly before the half-hour mark and Empoli watched Vidal's left-footed attempt miss the mark as half-time drew closer. The Tuscans were very much the brighter side when play resumed and Manuel Pucciarelli would have caused Gianluigi Buffon real problems had he made better contact with Mirko Valdifiori's cross. Pucciarelli did give Juventus' veteran goalkeeper something to think about with a well-struck volley from distance but the Bianconeri soon wrested back control of the game. Claudio Marchisio and Chiellini both missed close-range chances inside a frantic three-minute period and just when Empoli thought it was safe, Pirlo fired home the opener. Tonelli's foul on Giovinco proved fatal to Empoli as it offered Pirlo the chance to take aim from a free-kick and the ball predictably rose over the wall before dipping and beating Bassi. Empoli might have levelled quickly through Pucciarelli, who drew a miraculous save from Buffon from yards out, but it was not long before Juve doubled their lead. Marchisio had fired the warning shot by clattering the post thanks to Tevez's deft pass and, in the 72nd minute, Morata collected the ball from the Argentinian and bested Bassi with his left boot. Tevez almost made it three as Empoli wilted, his powerful right-footed effort calling Bassi into a desperate punched save. Empoli enjoyed one more sight of goal before full-time as Francesco Tavano got close to Buffon, but the hosts' night ended with more disappointment as Tonelli drew a red card. Five minutes into stoppage time the centre-back brought Tevez down as the last man and had to walk. Pirlo would spare Empoli any further embarrassment by directing his free-kick over the bar.