Juventus eight points clear with three left after beating Sassuolo
Juventus came from behind to win 3-1 away to struggling Sassuolo and edge closer to retaining the Serie A title on Monday night.
Simone Zaza put Sassuolo in front, but the visitors recovered and an own goal from Alessandro Longhi brought them level before strikes by Claudio Marchisio and Fernando Llorente gave Juve a victory that leaves them eight points clear of second-placed Roma with three games remaining.
A win at home to Atalanta next Monday will clinch a third successive title for the club from Turin, although it could be over by then anyway if Roma fail to win at Catania on Sunday.
However, coach Antonio Conte refused to get carried away after the match, telling Sky Sport Italia: “No, no, our challengers still have a chance. We need to finish the job in our next match.”
He added: “I hear people saying everywhere that Roma are having a fantastic season, but we are eight points ahead, so I have no adjectives to describe us. Find one yourselves (journalists), you are better than me.”
Under pouring rain in Reggio Emilia, the evening started badly for Conte’s Juve side as they fell behind inside nine minutes.
Zaza, who is co-owned by Juventus, beat visiting goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon at his near post with a shot from a tight angle to put relegation-threatened Sassuolo in front.
Sassuolo, playing in the top flight for the first time in their history, famously beat AC Milan 4-3 at home in January, but there was to be no shock this time around.
Carlos Tevez volleyed just wide after being teed up by Giorgio Chiellini before the equaliser arrived in the 35th minute.
This time Marchisio found Tevez, and the Argentine striker took a couple of touches before letting fly from 20 yards, the ball taking a deflection off Alessandro Longhi on its way into the net.
The ball was almost certainly going in anyway, but the Italian league attributed the goal to Longhi, denying Tevez his 19th of the season.
Zaza might have restored the home side’s lead just before the interval, but this time his effort from a tight angle was saved by Buffon.
And Juve’s class told in the second half, as Andrea Pirlo’s delightful flighted ball over the top was converted first-time by Marchisio in the 56th minute to put the league leaders in front.
Tevez then hit the bar, but the Bianconeri put the final outcome beyond doubt inside the final quarter of an hour thanks to a touch of class from Llorente.
Paul Pogba found Stephan Lichtsteiner, and his low cross from the right was brilliantly backheeled into net from six yards by Spanish striker Llorente, despite the attentions of Luca Antei.
If the title race is decided next weekend, then there will be nothing riding on the meeting of Roma and Juve in the capital on May 9.
By then, Juventus could be preparing for a Europa League final in their own stadium on May 14, although they must overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit when they entertain Benfica in the return of their semi-final tie in Turin on Thursday.
Follow us on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE
Updated: April 29, 2014 04:00 AM