Paulo Dybala struck twice to send Juventus to the top of Serie A with a 2-0 victory over Udinese on Sunday, as title rivals Napoli were held to a goalless draw at Inter Milan.
Argentinian Dybala followed his midweek Champions League winner over Tottenham with a match-clinching double, as Massimiliano Allegri’s men moved a point clear of Napoli with a game in hand.
Gonzalo Higuain missed a first-half penalty, but Juve took another comfortable step towards a seventh consecutive league title.
“After the drama of Wednesday night (against Tottenham), there was a risk that we might have gone into tonight’s match too relaxed, but instead we showed character and experience to seal all three points,” Dybala told Juventus’ website.
“I’m happy to have helped the team with my goals. We’re putting pressure on our rivals and we keep moving forwards. It all depends on us now.”
Napoli were looking to restore their one-point lead and bounce back after seeing a 10-match winning streak ended by last weekend’s 4-2 home defeat by Roma, but couldn’t find a way past top-four hopefuls Inter.
In Turin, 24-year-old Dybala continued his excellent run of form by curling a magnificent free-kick into the top corner to give the hosts a 20th-minute lead.
Higuain missed a chance to double the advantage before half-time as he saw his spot-kick kept out by Udinese goalkeeper Albano Bizzarri.
But the deadly partnership of Higuain and Dybala, who have scored 42 goals between them in all competitions this season, combined again to finish off the match as a contest.
The 30-year-old Higuain used his strength to hold off the Udinese defence before sliding in Dybala with a clever pass, and his compatriot did the rest to net his fourth goal in three matches.
Dybala missed a great late chance to complete a hat-trick when he fired wide, but Juve, who host Atalanta in a rearranged match on Wednesday, were never in danger of failing to close out the win.
– Napoli title hopes hit again –
Inter had the best chance of the opening 45 minutes at San Siro later on Sunday, as Antonio Candreva’s shot flew narrowly wide for Luciano Spalletti’s hosts.
The hosts continued to create the better chances early in the second half, but Milan Skriniar’s header bounced off the post.
Napoli needed a win to really keep the pressure on Juventus at the top, but Lorenzo Insigne fired over after doing well to create space for a shot.
The visitors dominated possession in the closing stages, but couldn’t break down Inter as their hopes of a first title since 1990 took another body blow.
There were poignant scenes as Fiorentina edged out bottom side Benevento 1-0, with the match stopping in the 13th minute as players and fans paid tribute to their captain Davide Astori, who died suddenly at the age of 31 last weekend in his hotel room before a game at Udinese.
Brazilian Vitor Hugo scored the only goal in the 25th minute, celebrating by making a salute towards a photo of Astori on the side of the pitch.
Elsewhere, Andre Silva came off the bench to head in a dramatic winner as AC Milan bounced back from Thursday’s Europa League loss to Arsenal by edging to a 1-0 win at Genoa.
The Portuguese international directed Suso’s cross into the bottom corner with only five seconds left of added time to draw Gennaro Gattuso’s men within six points of fourth-placed Lazio in the race for the Champions League.
Ciro Immobile grabbed Lazio a 2-2 draw at Cagliari with a stunning equaliser in the fifth minute of injury time.
The Italian international striker met Felipe Anderson’s cross with an outrageous backheeled lob to score his league-leading 24th goal of the campaign.
The capital club twice came from behind to secure a draw, enough to stay one point ahead of Inter in the race for fourth. – Agence France-Presse