Second-half strikes from Mirko Vucinic and Claudio Marchisio gave Juventus a 2-0 win at Bologna to move 12 points clear at the top of Serie A with nine matches left.
Montenegro forward Vucinic struck his seventh league goal of the season with a crisp finish just after the hour mark in a fairly even clash between two organised, aggressive sides.
And, as Bologna over-committed in attack, Marchisio made it two 12 minutes later to put the result beyond doubt.
Napoli can cut Juve’s lead back to nine points if they beat Atalanta on Sunday, while Bologna stay in mid table.
Earlier on Saturday, Catania beat Udinese 3-1 thanks to a brace from Alejandro Gomez, with Francesco Lodi adding a third before Luis Muriel pulled back a late consolation.
That result sees Catania move above Roma into seventh, with Udinese back in ninth.
In the bigger match of the day, the first half stayed goalless, but not through lack of effort.
Juve started well but looked vulnerable on the break, Gianluigi Buffon fortunate not to catch Alberto Gilardino as he raced out of his box following a disastrous attempt to play offside by his defence: Alessandro Diamanti saw his long-range follow-up deflected wide.
Otherwise the goal threat came mostly from the visitors, as Arturo Vidal put a couple of decent chances over, while Sebastian Giovinco fired weakly at Gianluca Curci after a mazy run and Mikael Antonsson somehow diverted Simone Padoin’s fizzing low ball away from Vucinic, who was set for a tap-in.
The second half started brightly too, as Diamanti’s free-kick was inches away from conversion, while down the other end Giovinco fired just wide after a fine team move.
Gilardino saw a power header correctly disallowed for offside, while Giovinco forced a smart stop from Curci as the sides traded blows in quick succession.
The hosts were lucky not to go down to 10 men when, immediately after being harshly booked for a trip on Giorgio Chiellini, Diego Perez rattled into Peluso but was spared a second yellow card.
And soon after that Perez’s indiscipline was at play again, this time the Uruguayan all over the place as Marchisio threaded a pass to Vucinic, who turned Naldo far too easily before toe-poking the finish past Curci.
Both sides were losing their heads, with Padoin fortunate not to be dismissed for a wild challenge on Archimede Morleo.
The action continued though as Vucinic put another effort just wide, with Bologna over-committing in attack.
That allowed Antonio Conte’s side to play their preferred counter-attacks, one of which paid off as Marchisio completed a one-two with Vucinic before firing home, the move started by Andrea Pirlo.
It pinpointed what had been a tactical error from Stefano Pioli, who had brought Naldo on to give his side more aerial presence – the Brazilian defender was once more guilty of sloppy defending as Juve cut through his backline.
You could see why Pioli introduced Naldo – he almost nodded a Diamanti free-kick past Buffon as Bologna fought gamely for a way back into the match – but the on-loan Granada stopper was having a torrid time, getting caught out positionally almost immediately after that incident.
Bologna’s game efforts came to nothing though, as the Old Lady comfortably closed out the win to cement their status as Italy’s best.
- Sports & Recreation
- Mirko Vucinic
- Claudio Marchisio