Mandzu­kic scores as Juve beat In­ter to go 11 points clear

The Borneo Post (Sabah) - - SPORT -

MI­LAN: Mario Mandzu­kic scored the only goal as Ju­ven­tus killed off In­ter Mi­lan’s chal­lenge to move 11 points clear in Serie A on Fri­day.

Lu­ciano Spal­letti’s third-placed In­ter fall 14 points adrift of the lead­ers with the Derby d’Italia de­feat a grave blow to their hopes of chal­leng­ing for a first ti­tle since 2010.

Un­beaten Ju­ven­tus have 43 points from 15 games -- 11 points ahead of sec­ond-placed Napoli who host lowly Frosi­none on Sun­day -- with their only points dropped com­ing in a home draw against Genoa.

World Cup run­ner-up Mandzu­kic’s div­ing header af­ter 66 min­utes off a cross from for­mer In­ter player Joao Cancelo was enough to de­cide the out­come at the Al­lianz Sta­dium.

“Mandzu­kic is one of those play­ers who even on an off day can bring his phys­i­cal­ity to the game and that can make the dif­fer­ence,” said Ju­ven­tus coach Mas­si­m­il­iano Al­le­gri.

“We knew the cham­pi­onship wouldn’t end to­day, but we still ab­so­lutely had to avoid de­feat.

“I asked the lads to be ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive. We were only half that in the first pe­riod, but then we started to hold the ball with greater pa­tience, were more or­gan­ised and solid.

“Af­ter that, the qual­ity of the play­ers in­evitably emerges.”

The seven-time reign­ing cham­pi­ons proved yet again they were a class above their ri­vals even with Por­tuguese star Cris­tiano Ron­aldo not as om­nipresent as he has been in pre­vi­ous games, fail­ing to add to his ten league goals.

In­ter cap­tain Mauro Icardi also failed to muster a sin­gle shot on goal, but the vis­i­tors did have chances in the first half with Roberto Gagliar­dini rat­tling the post just be­fore the half-hour mark.

“We played well enough but we weren’t con­sis­tent, there were sit­u­a­tions where we didn’t in­ter­pret or read them prop­erty while Ju­ven­tus did not do any­thing wrong,” said Spal­letti.

“If some­one takes the lead, of course it makes the dif­fer­ence, but we made too many ba­nal and cheap er­rors,” con­tin­ued the In­ter coach.

“Un­for­tu­nately, Juve are smart and we are naive. They have a way of wast­ing five min­utes af­ter a foul.”

Ar­gen­tine Paulo Dy­bala threat­ened early for Ju­ven­tus, nod­ding over a Ron­aldo cross with In­ter goal­keeper Samir Han­danovic tip­ping over in the first ten min­utes.

Icardi and Mat­teo Poli­tano set up Gagliar­dini but his shot bounced off the post just be­fore the half-hour mark.

Mandzu­kic got his head to Ro­drigo Ben­tan­cur’s cross al­though failed to con­trol the fin­ish with Marcelo Bro­zovic de­flect­ing wide and Han­danovic get­ting his hand to a sear­ing Gior­gio Chiellini header be­fore the break.

In­ter winger Poli­tano missed a chance to break the dead­lock just af­ter the break as Leonardo Bonucci pro­duced a vi­tal block.

A Ron­aldo strike from dis­tance flew nar­rowly over the cross­bar just be­fore the hour mark, be­fore Mandzu­kic’s stoop­ing header gave him his seventh goal this sea­son.

In­ter des­per­ately tried to sal­vage a point but were closed down by a Ju­ven­tus de­fence well-or­gan­ised by vet­eran Chiellini, with Lau­taro Martinez vol­ley­ing wide in a last des­per­ate at­tempt for the vis­i­tors.

In­ter stay four points ahead of AC Mi­lan, who host Torino, with Lazio a fur­ther point back in fifth be­fore their game against Sam­p­do­ria.

Spal­letti’s side now turn to their cru­cial Cham­pi­ons League game against PSV Eind­hoven at the San Siro on Tues­day.

Ju­ven­tus are al­ready through to the Cham­pi­ons League knock-out rounds be­fore next week’s trip to Young Boys in Switzer­land. - AFP

Ju­ven­tus’ Croatian for­ward Mario Mandzu­kic (L) scored his seventh league goal this sea­son. - AFP photo

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