Juventus puts one hand on Serie A title with comeback win against Sassuolo
SASSUOLO, Italy (AP) — Juventus all but clinched its third successive Serie A title by coming from behind to win 3-1 Monday at relegation-threatened Sassuolo in heavy rain.
Antonio Conte’s side moved eight points ahead of Roma with three rounds remaining. The two sides face each other in the penultimate match of the season, but Juventus is expected to seal the title next week when it plays Atalanta at home, where it has won all 17 of its league matches this season.
Juventus also remained on course to become the first Serie A club to reach the 100-point barrier.
”We have taken a very important step toward a historic third title,” Conte said. ”We are having a super season. I hear talk about an out of this world Roma side but we are eight points ahead of them and in the Europa League semifinals. So find adjectives for us.”
Juventus hosts Benfica on Thursday looking to overturn a 2-1 first leg defeat in their Europa League semifinal.
Simone Zaza – who is co-owned by Juventus – gave Sassuolo a surprise lead in ninth-minute when he finished off an electric counterattack. Nicola Sansone raced downfield before setting up Zaza, whose effort took a slight deflection off Angelo Ogbonna to beat Gianluigi Buffon at the near post.
Juventus leveled in the 35th when Carlos Tevez collected the ball from Claudio Marchisio just outside the area and unleashed a fierce shot, which took a decisive deflection off Alessandro Longhi.
It was Tevez’s 19th of the season and leaves him two behind Torino’s Ciro Immobile, the top scorer in Serie A.
Claudio Marchisio fired Juventus ahead in front shortly before the hour mark after a chipped pass from Andrea Pirlo over the Sassuolo defence.
And Fernando Llorente sealed the result when he finished off Stephan Lichtsteiner’s cross with a delightful backheel from close range 14 minutes from time.
Conte’s jubilation after that goal and the whole team’s reaction after the match expressed how close they are to the crown.
”It wasn’t a title celebration at the end because there is still a chance for our pursuers,” Conte said. ”We have to seal it in the next match, I don’t like anticipating things but we took a huge step forward.”
Sassuolo is only above the relegation zone thanks to its head-to-head record with Bologna.