6TH SCUD­ETTO IN THEIR SIGHT

Al­le­gri hails ‘im­por­tant step’ as Cuadrado wins it for Ju­ven­tus

New Straits Times - - Sport -

MI­LAN

MAS­SI­M­IL­IANO Al­le­gri hailed an “im­por­tant step for­ward” as jit­tery Ju­ven­tus edged closer to a record sixth con­sec­u­tive scud­etto with a pre­cious 1-0 win at Sam­p­do­ria on Sun­day.

“This is an im­por­tant step for­ward be­cause we have a very dif­fi­cult end to the sea­son,” Al­le­gri said af­ter a 24th win of the cam­paign left the Turin giants eight points clear of Roma af­ter their 3-1 win over Sas­suolo later Sun­day.

“It was im­por­tant to win here be­cause as soon as we come back (af­ter the in­ter­na­tional break) we face Napoli.

“The lads played one of the best first halves of the year and in the sec­ond, al­though we had a few chances, we put our­selves at risk when it would have been far eas­ier to tighten up.”

A su­perb header from Juan Cuadrado on seven min­utes gave Ju­ven­tus the early ad­van­tage, un­til the loss of play­maker Paulo Dy­bala to a flexor mus­cle prob­lem on 27 min­utes changed Al­le­gri’s game­plan.

Dy­bala was re­placed by Croa­tia for­ward Marko Pjaca, but Juve laboured for the re­main­der on their way to see­ing for­mer striker Fabio Quagliarella come close to lev­el­ling in the clos­ing min­utes.

Al­le­gri’s nerves were frayed on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, no­tably when Kwadwo Asamoah, hav­ing pro­vided Cuadrado’s as­sist, pan­icked twice in the sec­ond half and came close to gift­ing Sam­p­do­ria cheap pos­ses­sion.

As Samp main­tained the pres­sure, Al­le­gri erupted 12 min­utes from the end when Dani Alves came off worst in a fair chal­lenge with Vasco Regini.

“We have to be a bit more com­mit­ted, not let play­ers get past us and try to be more or­gan­ised,” said Al­le­gri.

“To­day we made only three or four fouls, while against Mi­lan we suf­fered 21 and com­mit­ted eight. We suf­fer a lot, but some­times (com­mit­ting) a foul can be use­ful.” Ju­ven­tus beat Mi­lan 2-1 in a fiery en­counter last week.

An in­ef­fec­tive Gon­zalo Higuain was re­placed by Swiss mid­fielder Stephan Licht­steiner for the clos­ing min­utes, but it was Samp who fin­ished strong­est, Quagliarella fir­ing an over­head kick over Gian­luigi Buf­fon’s cross­bar.

“It’s a shame, be­cause we re­ally de­served a share of the points,” said Sam­p­do­ria coach Marco Gi­ampaolo. “I’m proud of the lads’ per­for­mance, they were pug­na­cious and had the right at­ti­tude through­out.”

Juve’s win put pres­sure on Roma, but Lu­ciano Spal­letti’s men, still hurt­ing from Europa League elim­i­na­tion by Lyon in mid­week, over­came a ninth-minute opener by Sas­suolo striker Gre­goire De­frel to see Le­an­dro Pare­des and Mo­hamed Salah give the hosts a 2-1 lead by half-time.

Edin Dzeko then came off the bench on the hour to se­cure the points with his 21st goal of the cam­paign on 68 min­utes.

“We de­served to win. And that was what we wanted af­ter our elim­i­na­tion by Lyon,” Dutch mid­fielder Kevin St­root­man told Pre­mium Sport.

He said catch­ing Juve, though, would be “dif­fi­cult.”

“Now, we’re con­cen­trat­ing on sec­ond spot. For the scud­etto, it’s dif­fi­cult. Ju­ven­tus al­ways win.”

Lazio’s Cham­pi­ons League hopes were dented by a score­less draw at Cagliari that left Si­mone In­za­ghi’s men fourth but now five points be­hind Roma and six be­hind Napoli.

“The draw was a fair re­sult,” said In­za­ghi. “We played worse than we have been play­ing and al­though fin­ish­ing let us down, Cagliari played a solid game.”

Fiorentina’s hopes of Europa League foot­ball next sea­son looked dead and buried, but af­ter losses by In­ter and Lazio La Vi­ola are back in the hunt af­ter a 1-0 win at Cro­tone cour­tesy of Nikola Kalinic’s 90th minute win­ner.

Fiorentina re­main eighth al­though Paulo Sousa’s men are just seven points be­hind In­ter.

In­ter, held 2-2 at Torino on Satur­day, sit fifth at two points be­hind Lazio but on the same points (55) as Ata­lanta, who cruised to a 3-0 home win against Pescara.

AC Mi­lan’s 1-0 win over Genoa on Satur­day means the Ros­soneri re­main sev­enth at two points be­hind Ata­lanta and In­ter. AFP

The lads played one of the best first halves of the year and in the sec­ond, al­though we had a few chances, we put our­selves at risk when it would have been far eas­ier to tighten up.

MAS­SI­M­IL­IANO AL­LE­GRI Ju­ven­tus man­ager

PIC EPA

Ju­ven­tus’ Juan Cuadrado cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing against Sam­p­do­ria on Sun­day. Ju­ven­tus won 1-0.

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