Livorno’s Marco Biagianti (left) and Sampdoria’s Angelo Palomnbo in action during their Serie A match at the Luigi Ferraris Stadium in Genoa, Italy, yesterday.
MILAN: A first-half strike from Juventus winger Kwadwo Asamoah secured a 1-0 win over Fiorentina and stretched the champions’ lead over nearest rivals Roma to 14 points yesterday.
Second-placed Roma, who have a game in hand, travel to Napoli later looking to reduce the arrears and stretch their six-point lead over Rafael Benitez’s side.
But on this performance, Roma will have to hope Juventus -- who face Fiorentina home and away in the Europa League in the next 11 days -- suffer a major slip-up on what looks like a clear path towards a third consecutive scudetto.
Frenchman Paul Pogba said Juve’s 14th home win of the season had sent a message to their rivals.
“It was a crucial match for us and an even more important win in terms of the league title,” Pogba told Sky Sport.
Juve coach Antonio Conte hailed his side’s performance but admitted they breathed a sigh of relief when Ryder Matos’s header came back off Gianluigi Buffon’s crossbar in the closing minutes.
“We played really well in the first half and in the second things slowed down a little, also because players were tired from the midweek international friendlies,” said Conte.
“We gifted Fiorentina a chance to level late on but thankfully we resisted and came out of it pretty well.”
Fiorentina had handed Juve their only defeat of the season, a 4-2 comeback win in Florence last October, but had only one win in their last 21 visits to Turin.
Coach Vincenzo Montella admitted Juve had set the agenda, and his side had failed to adapt.
“When you play against Juventus, a lot depends on how they set up,” he told Sky Sport.
“We were better in the second half when we played higher up the park, but it wasn’t the game we had set out to play.”
Claudio Marchisio stepped into Andrea Pirlo’s deep-lying midfield role as the Italy veteran served a one-match ban, while Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente, who have scored 26 league goals between them, led the Bianconeri attack. Juve started with plenty of intent, Tevez and Stephan Lichsteiner threatening with early chances while defender Andrea Barzagli did well to block Alberto Aquilani’s strike for the visitors. Asamoah fired a first warning shot just before the half hour with a deflected effort which forced Neto into a one-handed save, while from the resulting corner the Ghanaian’s effort from a tight angle flashed wide.
Just before the interval, Asamoah broke the deadlock when he cut inside from the left and showed some nice skill with his left foot before firing a right-footed shot past Neto at the keeper’s far post with the help of a slight deflection.
“The coach is always telling me I should cut in from the left and try shots with my right. I’ve never scored with my right foot before, never mind one as good as that,” said Asamoah. Fiorentina came closest to levelling 10 minutes from time when Matos finished off a good move with a close-range header which bounced off Buffon’s crossbar. Elsewhere, the battle for the league’s two Europa League places moved up a notch, with seven points now separating fourth-placed Fiorentina from Lazio, in eighth.
Inter remained fifth but a precious 1-0 win at home to battling Torino thanks to Rodrigo Palacio’s 30th minute header closed the gap on Fiorentina to just a point.
Parma’s 2-0 win over Verona reinforced sixth place but they remain one point adrift of Inter with a game in hand, while Verona sit a further three points off the pace. Lazio’s bid for a place in Europe was halted in a practically empty Olympic Stadium by a shock 1-0 loss to Atalanta.
Maxi Moralez struck for Atalanta on the hour but Lazio were reduced to 10 men four minutes later when he received a second booking, for simulation, when he tumbled in the area.
Sampdoria, meanwhile, fought back from Ibrahima Mbaye’s first-half double for Livorno to stun the visitors 4-2 which moved the Genoese side up to 12th.AFP