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Juventus beat Atalanta 1-0


IANS Bergamo (Italy)
Veteran Gianluigi Buffon marked his comeback from an injury with a goalkeeping masterclass as Juventus defeated Atalanta 1-0 away in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final clash.
Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain put Juventus ahead in the third minute on Tuesday and Atalanta got a golden opportunity to equalise when the referee awarded a penalty for handball in the 25th minute. But 40-year-old Buffon -- starting for the first time in two months -- blocked Alejandro Gomez's effort from the spot, reports Efe.
It was the 20th penalty save at Juventus from Buffon, who was bogged down by a calf injury during Italy's disastrous World Cup qualiying defeat to Sweden.
Playing in dense fog at Bergamo's Atleti Azzurri d'Italia stadium on, the hosts conceded a goal to Juventus just three minutes into the match. Higuain finished a fine counter-attack, slotting home at the right post corner in the third minute to give the three-time defending champions ahead.
Buffon's opposite number Etrit Berisha was likewise impressive as he denied midfielder Blaise Matuidi on two occasions to keep the margin 1-0 at the break.
While the home side advanced their lines in the second half and dominated the midfield, the veteran Juventus defense was unfazed and Buffon came up big when he needed to, stopping Josep Ilicic's powerful strike in the 89th minute. Buffon also defused Andrea Petagna's effort at the goal.
Juventus, pursuing a fourth straight Coppa Italia title, have allowed just one goal in the their last 14 matches in all competitions.
"We played a team on a difficult field and against an opponent that could make anyone difficult. Now let's look forward. At the next game. At the next engagement. As a group. As a team," Juventus captain Buffon wrote on Twitter.
Juventus chief coach Massimiliano Allegri appreciated the efforts of Buffon, who didn't play in the Coppa Italia in the past five seasons.
"It's not as if Gigi has forgotten how to save over this period! I'm glad for him -- he's not played in the Coppa Italia for five years. He slotted straight back in, putting in a fantastic performance," Allegri was quoted as saying by the club's website.
"It's an important win and it was the result of our first-half display, when we played nice football, moving the ball from one side to the other and playing it forward," he added.

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First Published: Jan 31 2018 | 4:30 PM IST

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