Rome, Nov 21: Juventus showed no signs of rustiness after a three-week layoff on Sunday, reclaiming the Serie A lead with a dominating 3-0 win over Palermo, as previous leader Udinese lost 2-0 at Parma.
Simone Pepe put Juventus in front with a header in the 20th minute following a well-placed cross from Giorgio Chiellini, and then celebrated by imitating a golf putt into the corner flag.
Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo hit the post in the 31st but Alessandro Matri doubled the lead with a sharply angled shot that went under Palermo goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas in the 48th.
Claudio Marchisio sealed the victory in the 65th after Matri faked a shot to leave him wide open, as the Bianconeri remained unbeaten—with a game in hand.
Juventus and Lazio are level with 22 points each but Juventus holds the edge on goal difference ahead of the two clubs' meeting next weekend—with head-to-head results being the first tiebreaker in the Italian league.
AC Milan and Udinese are next with 21 points each.
In the late match, Roma beat Lecce 2-1 as Miralem Pjanic and Fernando Gago each scored their first Serie A goals, moving the capital club into fifth place, five points back.
Juventus hadn't played since beating Inter Milan 2-1 at the San Siro on Oct. 29. Its match at Napoli on Nov. 6 was postponed to later this month due to flooding worries in the southern city, and Serie A was on a break for international fixtures last weekend. In addition, Juve did not qualify to play in Europe this season.
“It was important to get going again and get these three points after such a long pause,” said Juventus coach Antonio Conte, who had compared this match to a World Cup final.
“I wanted to send a clear message to the players,” the manager said of his pre-match talk.
In the first half, Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon preserved the lead with two difficult saves to deny Josip Ilicic.
“Buffon is back playing incredibly again,” said Conte, who is in his first year as Juve's manager, having won five titles as a midfielder during his playing career for the club.
Still, Conte wasn't about to declare this squad a title contender.
“We'll analyze after the first half of the season,” the coach said. “Then we'll see where we are and what we can do.”
Udinese, meanwhile, had conceded just four goals in its opening 10 matches but was quickly in trouble at Parma when Daniele Galloppa hit the post for the hosts eight minutes in.
Jonathan Biabiany then gave Parma the lead in the 58th after being left unmarked inside the box for a header and the French forward also earned a penalty that Sebastian Giovinco converted in the 76th.
The closest Udinese came to scoring was a free kick from Antonio Di Natale that was tipped over the bar by Parma goalkeeper Antonio Mirante in the 73rd minute.
“I said yesterday that we shouldn't be presumptuous. Evidently I didn't do a good enough job at making myself understood, because the leader shouldn't play like that,” said Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin. “We've got to be careful, because this is a very dangerous league—for everyone.”
Lazio drew 0-0 at Napoli on Saturday and Milan had its five-match winning streak ended with a scoreless draw at Fiorentina. Also Saturday, Inter beat Cagliari 2-1 for just its third win of the season.
At the Stadio Olimpico, the 21-year-old Pjanic—a Bosnia playmaker signed from Lyon—put the hosts ahead in the 25th minute by steering home a cross from Rodrigo Taddei from two meters (yards).
Gago, a midfielder cast aside by Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid, then doubled the lead in the 54th with a long, bouncing shot from 30 meters (yards). A minute later, Erik Lamela—another new Roma player—wasted a golden chance to make it 3-0 by slotting a shot wide from the center of the area after slipping behind the defense.
Andrea Bertolacci, a product of Roma's youth system, pulled one back for Lecce in the 61st, and Roma striker Pablo Osvaldo appeared to restore the two-goal lead with a breathtaking bicycle kick in the 75th but there was a questionable offside call.
Roma's 35-year-old captain Francesco Totti played the final 24 minutes for his first action since suffering a leg muscle injury Oct. 1.
Elsewhere Sunday, Genoa edged Novara with an 86th-minute strike from Miguel Veloso as both sides finished with 10 men.
Atalanta forward German Denis scored twice to move to the top of the scoring chart with his eighth and ninth goals of the season in a 2-2 draw at Siena, which got an 87th-minute equalizer from Alessandro Gazzi. Chievo Verona won 2-1 at Catania with goals from Sergio Pellissier and Paolo Sammarco.
Earlier in the lunchtime fixture, last-place Cesena beat Bologna 1-0 in a regional derby for its first victory of the season, with Marco Parolo scoring the winner in the 84th with a spectacular shot into the top corner from 25 meters (yards).