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Birthday boy Bonucci puts Juve on brink of Champions League with brace

TURIN (AFP) – Leonardo Bonucci (AFP pic below) celebrated his 35th birthday by putting Juve on the brink of Champions League football with a double in yesterday’s 2-1 win over Venezia which also dealt a huge blow to the survival hopes of Serie A’s bottom team.

Italy defender Bonucci struck in each half at the Allianz Stadium to put Juve 10 points clear of fifth-placed Lazio, who currently occupy the Europa League spot.

Spirited Venezia deservedly levelled in the 71st minute through a superb Mattia Aramu strike.

However, Bonucci bundled in the winner five minutes later to consign Andrea Soncin’s team to their ninth straight defeat.

“We needed the win to make sure that the last three games aren’t too difficult, but Venezia deserve credit for coming here and playing open football,” said Bonucci to Sky Sport Italia.

The away side, who sacked coach Paolo Zanetti on Wednesday, are six points behind Cagliari who sit just outside the relegation zone following their home defeat to Verona on Saturday.

They have a game in hand but that comes on Thursday at in-form Salernitana, who are making a bold bid to retain their place in Serie A off the back of three straight wins.