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Jan 24, 2009

Serie A: Marchisio strike sends Juventus joint top

Juventus moved level with Inter Milan at the top of Serie A thanks to a narrow win over Fiorentina tonight.

A 21st-minute goal from Claudio Marchisio decided the game in the home side's favour, but Fiorentina will have felt hard done by for the second week running after having a seemingly-valid goal from Alberto Gilardino disallowed in the first half.

Cesare Prandelli's side created enough chances to equalise, but found Gianluigi Buffon in fine fettle to deny them.

Fiorentina had complained about certain decisions not going their way in their 1-0 defeat by AC Milan last Saturday and they had every right to be upset once again tonight.

Referee Massimiliano Saccani got it right not to award the Viola a penalty in the 10th minute when Stevan Jovetic went down after touching the foot of Olaf Mellberg, but several other decisions were hugely questionable.

There could be no doubt about the opening goal for Juventus, though.

Alessandro Del Piero played a neat diagonal ball past Amauri into the path of Marchisio, who opened his Serie A account with a precise shot lifted across the face of Sebastian Frey into the far corner.

Immediately afterwards, Del Piero set up Pavel Nedved in a similar position to the left of goal, but he crossed the ball too powerfully for Marchisio to reach when maybe a shot would have been a better idea.

Fiorentina threatened to level moments later when Gilardino stretched to control a long ball forward, but Buffon scampered from his line to block the Italy striker.

The Viola then succumbed to a costly refereeing error in the 33rd minute.

Mario Santana's header rattled the crossbar and Juve failed to clear the danger. Riccardo Montolivo sent a shot in from 20 yards that Buffon fumbled to the feet of Gilardino, who was wrongly adjudged to have been offside as he tapped the rebound in.

Marchisio almost grabbed his and Juve's second goal just before the break when he shook off Per Kroldrup to reach another sublime pass from Del Piero.

His first shot was parried back to him by Frey, who acrobatically denied him a second time from close range.

Fiorentina then wasted the last chance of the first half when Kroldrup and Alessandro Gamberini got in each other's way when it needed only one of them to head the ball past Buffon at the far post.

The drama continued in the second half with Buffon, back in the Juventus goal after a bout of flu, making an instinctive save to punch Manuel Pasqual's powerful shot away.

Frey did not want to be outdone at the other end and he made a fine fingertip save to deny Zdenek Grygera from 18 yards.

Juve searched for a second goal to give them some breathing space and Del Piero should have found it in the 69th minute when he was picked out inside the penalty area by Marco Marchionni, but he lifted his shot over the crossbar from 15 yards.

Buffon then made a world-class save to deny Gilardino, who touched a Jovetic cross towards goal only to see the Juve and Italy goalkeeper stick out a leg and lift the ball over the crossbar.

Sebastian Giovinco replaced Del Piero for the final 15 minutes, with the Juve captain far from happy to leave the field early, but his replacement's extra energy almost sealed the win.

He raced 40 yards from the left to bear down on Frey, but he nudged his last touch too close to the Fiorentina goalkeeper, who blocked his shot.

Fiorentina laid siege to the Juve goal but were unable to find an equaliser as they fell to their third straight defeat in 2009.

In Saturday's early game, Vincenzo Italiano smashed the ball home from distance in injury time to give Chievo a 1-0 win at fellow Serie A strugglers Reggina.

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