Juventus secure an 11th successive league win, keep tabs on Napoli
Juventus closed in on another record as it beat Roma 1-0 in Serie A on Sunday to keep the pressure on leader Napoli, which won 4-2 at 10-man Sampdoria.
Paulo Dybala struck again to help Juventus secure an 11th successive league win and remain two points behind Napoli, while Inter Milan’s woes continued.
"We played with character and had a great game technically, and at the end that gave us the win," Paul Pogba said. "When we play like this it’s a pleasure."
Serie A’s top goalscorer Gonzalo Higuain was also on target again to set Napoli on its way. Lorenzo Insigne netted a penalty before goals from Marek Hamsik and Dries Mertens sealed the victory.
"With hard work, in life you can do anything," Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri said. "There are still 17 matches left and at this point there’s no advantage that gives you a guarantee. Now we are happy, but we don’t yet know if we have the strength to remain at these levels especially because we are a new group."
Inter is now six points off the pace after a last-minute equalizer by 10-man Carpi held it to a 1-1 draw. Fiorentina is above Inter on goal difference after Josip Ilicic and Gonzalo Rodriguez secured a 2-0 win over Torino.
Elsewhere, Sassuolo lost 2-0 against Bologna while Lazio came from behind to beat Chievo Verona 4-1 in a match that saw both sides finish with 10 men and the visitors miss a penalty.
Palermo also won 4-1, against Udinese, and Hellas Verona drew 1-1 against Genoa.
Juventus needed a win to cut the deficit back after Napoli’s earlier victory, but Roma — playing in only its second game under Luciano Spalletti following Rudi Garcia’s dismissal — was desperate to get back to winning ways.
Roma put in a good defensive performance but, with the match seemingly destined for a draw, Dybala broke the deadlock in the 77th minute. The Argentina forward raced onto Pogba’s through ball and fired across into the bottom right corner for his 12th goal of the season.
Edin Dzeko thought he had equalized, but play had already been stopped for his nudge on Andrea Barzagli. Roma fell 12 points behind Napoli.
"We had a good game, we conceded little but we should have been more daring," Spalletti said. "At the moment we’re not being helped by the morale — which is on the ground — and tired legs.
"We did something positive, but too little."
Juventus needs just two more victories to match the club record of most consecutive league wins. It won 13 from the 32nd match of the 2013-14 season to the sixth match of 2014-15.
Its most successive wins in a single season was 12, in 2013-14. The record winning streak in Serie A is Inter’s 17-match run in 2006-07.
Higuain had been in good form with 20 goals in as many league matches this season and, although he missed an early chance, he got Napoli off to the perfect start in the ninth minute, pouncing onto Edgar Barreto’s woeful backpass and firing into the bottom left corner.
Matters went from bad to worse for Barreto in the 17th minute when he barged over Raul Albiol and Insigne converted the resulting penalty.
Joaquin Correa got Sampdoria back into the game on the stroke of halftime but the home side went down to 10 men shortly before the hour mark when Mattia Cassani was sent off for a second booking.
Napoli made the most of the man advantage as Hamsik immediately scored after a slalom run between two defenders.
Samp got back into the match again in the 73rd with a glancing header from an Eder corner, but substitute Mertens sealed the result 10 minutes from time.
Inter was eager to get back to winning ways in the league following a defeat and a draw, which had seen it fall from top spot.
Rodrigo Palacio broke the deadlock shortly before halftime, tapping into an empty net after Ivan Perisic’s shot was deflected into his path. And Inter appeared assured of the three points when Lorenzo Pasciuti was sent off following a second yellow card, seven minutes from time.
But Kevin Lasagna stunned the San Siro crowd with a stoppage-time equalizer after dodging the offside trap to run onto Raffaele Bianco’s through ball.