Juve go four clear as Mi­lan giants share tears and joy

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

A BRACE from Gon­zalo Higuain helped send Ju­ven­tus four points clear of ti­tle ri­vals Napoli on a day of con­trast­ing for­tunes for In­ter and city ri­vals AC Mi­lan yes­ter­day.

Ju­ven­tus trav­elled to Em­poli, where the hosts’ best re­sult against the Bian­coneri was a score­less draw in 2008, con­fi­dent of en­sur­ing that they would re­main on top of the ta­ble go­ing into the in­ter­na­tional break.

Yet the Turin giants missed a host of first-half chances be­fore Ar­gen­tine striker Paulo Dy­bala fi­nally broke the dead­lock on 65 min­utes with a close-range strike.

Higuain then pounced on Mario Lem­ina’s pre­ci­sion pass only two min­utes later to beat Lukasz Sko­rup­ski from the edge of the area.

Three min­utes after that, the Ar­gen­tine cheek­ily dis­pos­sessed Marco Zam­belli yards from the Em­poli goal to round the Pol­ish ‘keeper for his sec­ond of the day as Juve claimed a 3-0 win.

Higuain moves on to seven goals in all com­pe­ti­tions this sea­son, six in Serie A, in which he is level with com­pa­triot Mauro Icardi after In­ter stum­bled to a 2-1 de­feat at Roma’s Sta­dio Olimpico.

“The lads did great on what is a dif­fi­cult ground to play at,” Ju­ven­tus coach Mas­si­m­il­iano Al­le­gri told Premium Sport.

“They had a few counter-at­tacks be­cause we didn’t fin­ish the job off on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, but it was a dif­fer­ent story in the sec­ond half.

“Once we scored, ev­ery­thing be­came much eas­ier.”

Ju­ven­tus are aim­ing for a record sixth con­sec­u­tive Serie A ti­tle this sea­son and Napoli’s first re­verse of the cam­paign, away to Ata­lanta, is a wel­come boost.

Napoli coach Mau­r­izio Sarri, speak­ing im­me­di­ately after a 4-2 win over Ben­fica in the Cham­pi­ons League on Wed­nes­day, had warned of the po­ten­tial dan­gers of their trip to Berg­amo.

After a bright start that saw Lorenzo In­signe’s free­kick whizz past Etrit Ber­isha’s up­right, the vis­i­tors were stunned by An­drea Pe­tagna’s ninth-minute opener and failed to re­cover.

Papu Gomez’s cross inched over the head of Kali­dou Koulibaly in­side the area, but after ric­o­chet­ing off the face of Faouzi Ghoulam the ball fell kindly for Pe­tagna to drive past Pepe Reina at the ‘keeper’s near post.

Sarri goes to great lengths to talk down Napoli’s hopes of win­ning a first ti­tle since 1990 after he took over from Rafael Ben­itez last year.

Yes­ter­day, the Napoli han­dler turned philo­soph­i­cal when he said: “We have to im­prove against op­po­nents who are ag­gres­sive. Th­ese kinds of games, at dif­fi­cult grounds, are the limit for us.

“But if we’re go­ing to get bet­ter, we have to play th­ese kinds of games. It’s up to us to show we de­serve to bring the points home.”

In­ter Mi­lan went off in search of a fourth win of the cam­paign that would keep their early sea­son ti­tle hopes afloat.

But Frank De Boer’s men had to wait un­til the 72nd minute to re­spond to Edin Dzeko’s fifth minute opener, Ever Banega beat­ing Wo­j­ciech Szczesny with a well-taken strike.

Only min­utes later, Kostas Manolas rose to meet Alessan­dro Florenzi’s well-struck free­kick to fire a bul­let header past Samir Han­danovic and se­cure the points that moved Roma up to third at five points off the lead.

“This is a huge win for us, and for the fans,” said Roma’s Dutch mid­fielder Kevin St­root­man.

“We’d dropped too many points, espe­cially away from home. Now, we can look ahead.”

De Boer ad­mit­ted his side had suc­cumbed to Roma in the open­ing half but added: “We to­tally dom­i­nated the sec­ond half, a draw would have been a fairer re­sult.” – AFP

– AFPPIX

AC Mi­lan de­fender Gabriel Paletta (top) scores dur­ing the Ital­ian Serie A match against Sas­suolo at the San Siro Sta­dium in Mi­lan yes­ter­day.

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