MILAN (AFP) – Paul Pogba (photo)-inspired Juventus boosted their chances of a fourth consecutive Serie A title after opening up a seven-point gap on title challengers Roma on Sunday.
Pogba hit his fourth goal in as many games to inspire Juventus to a crucial 2-0 win over Chievo.
Roma then travelled to Fiorentina looking to end a run of two consecutive draws but were forced to settle for a third after former Fiorentina forward Adem Ljajic levelled Mario Gomez’s early opener shortly after the restart.
Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus had Pogba to thank for ending their frustrating search for goals in an entertaining encounter in Turin, where a stubborn Chievo kept the scoresheet clean until the Frenchman broke the deadlock on the hour.
Chievo goalkeeper Albano Bizzarri was finally beaten by a piece of Pogba magic, the French star taking Carlos Tevez’s short pass and nutmegging one Chievo player before unleashing a dipping shot with his left foot that beat the ‘keeper at his near post. It was Pogba’s fourth consecutive goal in as many games, having also scored one in Juve’s 6-1 Italian Cup last-16 drubbing of Verona last week. Thirteen minutes later, Bizzarri did well to block Pogba’s control and volley in the area but Stephan Lichsteiner rushed in to bundle the ball home and all but wrap up the points for the defending champions.
Juventus’s 15th win of the campaign sees them on 49 points, seven ahead of Roma and 15 in front of third-placed Lazio, who outclassed a sorry AC Milan side 3-1 late on Saturday.
Juve coach Allegri insisted a fourth consecutive league title is a long way off, but praised his side’s composure.
“There are still a lot of games to play before we can talk about the title,” Allegri told Radio Rai.
Amid injury absences, Roma coach Rudi Garcia was forced to deploy forward Alessio Florenzi at right-back as his side looked to maintain their hopes of a first scudetto since 2001.
But La Viola were in sparkling form from kick-off and Vincenzo Montella’s team took a 19th minute lead when Gomez got his foot to a David Pizarro drive to wrong-foot ‘keeper Morgan De Sanctis. Fiorentina should have added to their advantage in a one-sided first half and were lamenting their missed chances minutes after the restart when Ljajic finished off great work by Juan Iturbe to beat Ciprian Tatarusanu down low.
Garcia refused to be drawn on his side’s deficit, and insisted to Sky Sport: “The lads are calm. We came here looking for a win but knowing it’s a difficult ground and that Fiorentina are a strong side. “We could have played better in the first half but we rectified things after the break and it’s a pity we didn’t get the second goal from the chances we created.”
Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella said: “We’ll settle for the draw with Roma, but in terms of what we produced during the game we deserved to win.” Sampdoria, held 1-1 at home by Palermo, sit fourth on inferior goal difference to Lazio although Napoli can leapfrog both sides into third if they account for Genoa on Monday.
Inter Milan had been looking to capitalise on their city rivals’ misfortunes to steal a march in what is shaping up to be a tight race for the third and last Champions League qualifying spot.
But Roberto Mancini’s men failed to capitalise on their few real chances against Torino and were stunned in the last minute of added time when Emiliano Moretti stooped low to beat Samir Handanovic with a low header after Maxi Lopez had headed a corner towards goal.