- POSTED: 17 Feb 2014 03:47
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Champions Juventus dug deep against a spirited Chievo to beat the Serie A strugglers 3-1 in Turin and extend their lead over Roma to 12 points.
MILAN: Champions Juventus dug deep against a spirited Chievo to beat the Serie A strugglers 3-1 in Turin and take their lead over Roma to 12 points on Sunday.
Juventus broke the deadlock in the 17th minute when winger Kwadwo Asamoah capped a one-two with Fernando Llorente with a left-foot strike from outside the area that left Michael Agazzi in the Chievo net with no chance.
Juve coach Antonio Conte left Frenchman Paul Pogba on the bench and stand-in Claudio Marchisio made the most of his rare start to give Juve a 2-0 lead on the half-hour when he tapped home Agazzi's rebound from Andrea Pirlo's free kick.
Juve were pegged back seven minutes after the restart when a defensive mix-up left Martin Caceres bundling the ball past Gianluigi Buffon and into his own net.
But Juve soon restored their two-goal cushion, in textbook fashion, when Llorente, left unmarked in the Chievo box, headed Pirlo's corner from the left past a flailing Agazzi as his defence looked on.
A week after conceding a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Verona which prompted the cancellation of a scheduled day off for his side, Conte said keeping focus throughout was key.
"It's hard to maintain the same intensity for 95 minutes but we have to because at the slightest lapse in concentration anything can happen," the Juve boss told Sky Sport Italia.
"Chievo scored with their first chance, which to be honest we scored by ourselves. There are times when any shot can become a goal, so you have to be vigilant with Roma and Napoli coming up behind you."
Roma, sitting second with a game in hand, can bring the gap back to nine points at the Olympic Stadium later if they account for Sampdoria.
Third-placed Napoli, meanwhile, extended their lead over Fiorentina to six points with a 2-0 away win at struggling Sassuolo with goals from Blerim Dzemaili and Lorenzo Insigne coming in either half.
Dzemaili struck on the half-volley from the edge of the area for Napoli's 37th minute opener after Marek Hamsik's flick-on from a cutback at the left byline.
Insigne gave Rafael Benitez's visitors a two-goal cushion 10 minutes after the restart when he ran on to Hamsik's through ball on the left before feinting and sending a curling shot past Gianluca Pegolo.
Napoli's joy was tempered by the 71st minute departure of Gonzalo Higuain after the Argentinian striker suffered a back injury.
"We'll see how serious it is in the coming days," said Benitez, whose side face Swansea in the last 32 of the Europa League on Thursday.
"But we hope to have him available for the Europa League. It's a big goal for us."
Napoli also face Fiorentina in the Italian Cup final and despite their 13-point deficit to Juve, Benitez added: "The league title remains our objective but so are the trophies from Cup competitions."
Parma, meanwhile, turned on the class away to Atalanta to stun the Bergamo side 4-0, a result which moved Roberto Donadoni's men up to sixth at the expense of Verona.
Parma also have a game in hand, their encounter with Roma being rained off two weeks ago, and are now only three points behind fifth-placed Inter, who beat Fiorentina 2-1 on Saturday.
Donadoni said: "I think today the lads realised that we are also capable of getting important results away from home."
For entertainment value, the Genoa v Udinese clash which finished 3-3 was hard to beat.
Udinese took the lead three times thanks to Dusan Basta, Bruno Fernandes and Luis Muriel only for Genoa to pull level three times thanks to Moussa Konate and an Alberto Gilardino double in the space of ten second-half minutes.
Three players were sent off in a bad-tempered finish to Livorno's 2-1 away win at Cagliari, which moved the visitors out of the relegation zone at the expense of Catania, who had pulled clear thanks to a 3-1 rout of Lazio earlier.