Home win returns Juve to summit
© AFP

Juventus returned to the top of the Serie A table this afternoon with a one-sided home 2-0 victory over lowly Novara.

Simone Pepe set Juve on their way with a fourth-minute opener and Fabio Quagliarella added a second 15 minutes from time as the Turin outfit moved back above AC Milan, who beat Siena last night.

Juve will be joined on 33 points at the summit if Udinese beat Lazio this evening, while at the other end of the table Novara remain rooted in the bottom two. Juve go to Udinese on Wednesday but Antonio Conte's side showed no sign of being distracted by that showdown as they quickly assumed control against Novara.

Visiting goalkeeper Samir Ujkani had already been tested by Claudio Marchisio before Juve took an early lead when Pepe slotted in Paolo De Ceglie's cross from close range.

That looked set to open the floodgates as Juve laid siege to the Novara goal, but the hosts had to wait until near the end to double their advantage. It was not for the want of trying, though, as the home side created chance after chance.

Chances wasted
Before the break, Quagliarella sent two efforts wide, De Ceglie was denied by a good save from Ujkani, who also kept out shots from Marchisio, Emanuele Giaccherini and Alessandro Del Piero. Del Piero also failed to hit the target with two other openings in the first half, while Pepe missed a chance to double his tally for the afternoon.

Juve could have been made to pay for their profligacy as Novara made a rare dangerous foray forward on the stroke of half-time but, fortunately for the hosts, Gianluigi Buffon was equal to Marco Rigoni's header. It was a similar story in the second period as Juve continued to get themselves in shooting positions, but without being able to make the most of them.

However, the likes of Del Piero, Giaccherini, Marchisio and Pepe were not made to rue their missed opportunities as, after Buffon had done well to save from Ivan Radovanovic, Quagliarella calmed Juve's nerves in the 75th minute when he made it 2-0.

Andrea Pirlo curled over a corner and Quagliarella got on the end of it to power a fine header into the roof of the net. Juve could have increased their lead further in the closing stages but Giaccherini saw his shot well saved by Ujkani, before Pepe hit the post with a free-kick from a tight angle.