Juventus beat Verona for 8th straight win in Serie A
With Paulo Dybala performing like Andrea Pirlo, Juventus picked up right where it left off before the holiday break.
Dybala scored with a curling free kick and also set up a goal as Juventus swept aside last-place Hellas Verona 3-0 for its eighth straight win in Serie A on Wednesday.
Leonardo Bonucci and Simone Zaza also scored for the four-time defending champion, which hadn’t played in 17 days.
"The lads did well to get right back into the league, which is never easy after the holidays," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. "We weren’t very sharp, especially at the start, but we didn’t concede anything."
Juventus remained three points behind leader Inter Milan, which won 1-0 at Empoli with a first-half goal from Mauro Icardi.
Second-place Fiorentina was one point off the lead following a 3-1 win at Palermo, where Josip Ilicic scored twice.
Napoli was third, level on points with Fiorentina, after beating Torino 2-1 with goals from Lorenzo Insigne and Marek Hamsik.
Also, Roma wasted a two-goal lead in a 3-3 draw at Chievo Verona to remain fifth.
With Mario Balotelli still recovering from pelvis surgery, AC Milan was beaten 1-0 at home by Bologna, which got a late winner from Emanuele Giaccherini.
Elsewhere, it was: Lazio 0, Carpi 0; Sassuolo 2, Frosinone 2; and Udinese 2, Atalanta 1.
In Turin, Dybala put Juventus in front with an accurate free kick eight minutes in, and Bonucci doubled the lead before halftime by redirecting a free kick from Dybala with a header.
"(Dybala) has been practicing free kicks," Allegri said. "Being able to open up matches with a free kick is very important after a break of more than two weeks."
Zaza sealed it for Juventus after being set up by Paul Pogba eight minutes from the end.
After starting the season by winning only three of its opening 10 matches, Juventus appears on course for a fifth consecutive title.
While the Bianconeri struggled to overcome the departures of Pirlo and Carlos Tevez at the start of the season, new players such as Dybala and Mario Mandzukic have settled in.
In Empoli, Icardi found the target from close range by redirecting a cross from Ivan Perisic.
Having tied for the Serie A scoring lead with 22 goals last season, Icardi has eight goals from his 12 shots on target this term.
It was the 10th time Inter won with a one-goal advantage this season.
Empoli, which had won four straight, was dangerous at times but couldn’t find a way past Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.
In Sicily, Ilicic was unstoppable against his former club. He put Fiorentina ahead in the 13th after dribbling through a defender’s legs, and scored again with expert control and a precise shot from beyond the area.
Former Fiorentina striker Alberto Gilardino pulled one back for Palermo with a header, but Jakub Blaszczykowski restored Fiorentina’s two-goal lead in added time.
"We have a clear idea of how we want to play and ample room for improvement," Fiorentina manager Paulo Sousa said.
In Verona, Roma went ahead seven minutes in when 18-year-old Nigerian Sadiq Umar scored his second goal in two matches after being set up by Gervinho.
Umar also hit the post before Alessandro Florenzi doubled Roma’s lead before halftime.
Alberto Paloschi scored for Chievo just before the break amid confusion in front of Roma’s goal, and Dario Dainelli redirected a corner from close range to equalize shortly before the hour mark.
Iago Falque restored Roma’s lead with a long, low and angled shot in the 81st but Simone Pepe equalized again for Chievo in the 85th with a free kick that was validated by goal-line technology.
"It’s obvious that we threw away two points," Roma coach Rudi Garcia said.
At the San Siro, Milan created numerous chances but couldn’t quite find the target. Giaccherini’s winner eight minutes from the end came from within the area.
Milan fans jeered Keisuke Honda, who reportedly criticized the Rossoneri’s market moves in an interview with Japanese media, when the midfielder was replaced midway through the second half.
Earlier, Udinese beat Atalanta to celebrate the opening of its redesigned Stadio Friuli.