Alarm bells ring­ing

> Buffon sounds alarm over dan­gers posed by Serie A ri­vals

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

JU­VEN­TUS cap­tain Gian­luigi Buffon called for im­prove­ments de­spite a 2-1 win over ti­tle ri­vals Napoli that left the Serie A cham­pi­ons four points clear of an in­creas­ingly am­bi­tious chas­ing pack.

A sec­ond-half win­ner from exNapoli striker Gon­zalo Higuain sent Juve four points clear of Roma, with Napoli now seven points off the pace af­ter AC Mi­lan and Lazio won yes­ter­day to move into third and fourth places re­spec­tively.

Although Juve coach Mas­si­m­il­iano Al­le­gri paid trib­ute to his squad for “in­ter­pret­ing the game well”, Buffon said it’s not enough.

One of the world’s most dec­o­rated goal­keep­ers, for­mer World Cup win­ner Buffon has yet to win a Cham­pi­ons League ti­tle and at 38, time is run­ning out.

Juve host Lyon in the Cham­pi­ons League on Wed­nes­day look­ing to se­cure their place in the last 16 – a win would see the Ital­ians seven points clear of the Ligue 1 side with two games re­main­ing.

But if the Ital­ian giants are to beat the likes of Real Madrid, Bay­ern Mu­nich and Barcelona to the top prize in Euro­pean club foot­ball, Buffon said a step up in “qual­ity” is re­quired.

“It was a great win for us against a strong side that we all re­spect. Napoli made us suf­fer,” said Buffon.

“But we have to im­prove cer­tain as­pects of our game, and we’re still strug­gling to put the in­struc­tions of the coach into prac­tice on the pitch.

“Morale is high. But, I have to say again: if we want to en­joy a good run this sea­son, es­pe­cially in Europe, the qual­ity of our game has to im­prove.”

Napoli face Be­sik­tas away to­mor­row morn­ing (Malaysian time) look­ing to re­launch their Cham­pi­ons League cam­paign af­ter a shock 3-2 de­feat to the Turks at the San Paolo two weeks ago left them in dan­ger of los­ing top spot in the group.

And in Serie A, Mau­r­izio Sarri’s men have even big­ger prob­lems.

Af­ter sell­ing Higuain to Juve for an Ital­ian trans­fer record fee of 90m eu­ros, Napoli are still with­out a proper cen­tre-for­ward af­ter the Ar­gen­tine’s re­place­ment, Arkaduisz Mi­lik, was side­lined with a knee in­jury.

“We lost one of the best for­wards in the world and the club made the de­ci­sion to buy young play­ers,” Sarri lamented af­ter Satur­day’s de­feat.

Roma, run­ners-up twice in suc­ces­sion in 2014 and 2015, are now seen as Juve’s prin­ci­pal ri­vals, although drop­ping points against sup­pos­edly in­fe­rior op­po­si­tion – as they did in a score­less stale­mate at Em­poli yes­ter­day – will prove costly.

Roma striker Edin Dzeko re­mains top of the league scor­ing charts on 10 goals, but the Bos­nian was among the play­ers who hit a blank at the Castel­lani sta­dium, where home ‘keeper Lukasz Sko­rup­ski per­formed hero­ics.

Roma sit sec­ond at four points be­hind Ju­ven­tus, but mid­fielder Daniele De Rossi said get­ting past Em­poli’s as­tute de­fence was not easy.

“It would be a mis­take for any side to come here and think they can simply score by shoot­ing once they get into the area,” De Rossi told Sky Sport. “Em­poli de­fend very well.”

Napoli’s de­feat gave AC Mi­lan and Lazio an ex­tra in­cen­tive and both seized the day to jump up the ta­ble to sit third and fourth re­spec­tively.

Gi­a­como Bon­aven­tura’s 49th minute free kick broke the dead­lock at the San Siro although Mi­lan en­dured a ner­vous fin­ish to put the smile back on coach Vin­cenzo Mon­tella’s face fol­low­ing a 3-0 mid­week de­feat at Genoa.

“That was a great vic­tory, but a very dif­fi­cult match. We knew it would be like that,” Mon­tella told Sky Sport.

“Credit to Pescara, they cre­ated a lot of prob­lems for us.”

At the Sta­dio Olimpico, Se­nad Lulic opened the scor­ing af­ter Keita Balde’s cross came off goal­keeper An­drea Con­sigli and back off the Bos­nian mid­fielder be­fore land­ing in the net.

Ciro Im­mo­bile smashed a vol­ley past Con­sigli off a Sas­suolo leg to dou­ble their lead five min­utes later, and French­man Gre­goire De­frel hit a con­so­la­tion goal just be­fore the hour for Sas­suolo.

In­ter Mi­lan, mean­while, re­main be­low mid-ta­ble, 13 points be­hind Ju­ven­tus, af­ter Fabio Quagliarella’s first-half strike se­cured a 1-0 win for Sam­p­do­ria in Genoa. – AFP

Ju­ven­tus’ play­ers cel­e­brate af­ter win­ning the Ital­ian Serie A match against Napoli at Ju­ven­tus Sta­dium in Turin yes­ter­day. –

Ath­letic failed to make much ground on Villarreal in the fight for Euro­pean places. Raul Gar­cia can­celled out Oriol Riera’s opener for Osasuna be­fore half­time, but a point leaves Ath­letic in sev­enth.

The game of the week­end came in the Ca­nary Is­lands as Las Pal­mas stormed back from con­ced­ing three times in the open­ing 21 min­utes.

Real Betis boss Gus­tavo Poyet’s fu­ture looks un­cer­tain af­ter his side lost 1-0 at home to Es­panyol.

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid were all vic­to­ri­ous on Satur­day to leave the top three sep­a­rated by three points. look­ing to build on a 2-1 mid-week win over Torino that saw Ar­gen­tine striker Mauro Icardi put two goals past Eng­land ‘keeper Joe Hart.

But Sam­p­do­ria had other ideas, and when Fabio Quagliarella swept a loose ball past Samir Han­danovic on the stroke of half­time In­ter were left with a moun­tain to climb.

De Boer, who was given the back­ing of the club’s new Chi­nese own­ers last week de­spite re­ports he is fac­ing the sack, made a dou­ble sub­sti­tu­tion with 15 min­utes re­main­ing.

Eder and Antonio Can­dreva were re­placed on the right and left sides of a three-man at­tack with Ro­drigo Pala­cio and Ivan Perisic.

De Boer’s changes al­most paid off in the dy­ing min­utes of in­jury-time as In­ter poured for­ward.

In­ter sit in 11th place and are now 13 points be­hind lead­ers Ju­ven­tus, who, af­ter a 2-1 win over Napoli on Satur­day, hold a four-point lead on Roma.

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