Juventus 2-0 Napoli
Caceres & Pogba send champions clear at Serie A summit
The Bianconeri struggled to break down a stubborn Partenopei side, but they secured three precious points in the closing stages thanks to two of their substitutes
Juventus moved three points clear of Napoli at the top of Serie A by striking late to claim a vital 2-0 victory over their Scudetto rivals.
The Bianconeri had the better of a disappointing encounter in terms of possession and territory, but they struggled to create any clear-cut chances and it was Napoli who came closest to opening the scoring during the first-half, with forward Edinson Cavani hitting the crossbar with a free kick.
However, the hosts eventually made the breakthrough with 10 minutes to go when Martin Caceres headed home an Andrea Pirlo corner just moments after being introduced from the bench.
Fellow substitute Paul Pogba repeated the feat just moments later with a terrific volley to ensure that Napoli left Turin empty handed and give the his side the initiative in this season's title race.
Juventus began the game like they meant business, with Sebastian Giovinco testing Morgan De Sanctis with a low strike inside the opening 60 seconds.
However, the visitors were in no mood to be bullied. On the contrary, they seemed intent on roughing the Bianconeri up in the early stages, a tactic which resulted in the conceding of a succession of free kicks.
Indeed, after weathering what was a very early storm, Napoli settled and came agonisingly close to taking the lead midway through the first-half, when Cavani struck the top of the crossbar with a curling free kick from an acute angle wide on the left.
As it was, the two sides were still level at the interval, a well-struck drive from Claudio Marchisio, right on half-time, the only other effort of note in an ill-tempered, underwhelming and largely incident-free opening 45 minutes.
Juve continued to dominate possession in the second period but to little effect. However, Giovinco really should have ended the stalemate 10 minutes into the second-half when the ball dropped invitingly for him in the area, after he himself had miscued a low cross from Kwadwo Asamoah. However, after shifting it onto his right foot, the former Parma man fired wide.
For the most part, Juventus were still struggling to prise open the Napoli defence, but Pirlo did just that midway through the second-half with a sublime pass over the top. However, Alessandro Matri, just on as a replacement for the ineffective Fabio Quagliarella, failed dismally to control the ball and it bounced harmlessly into the grateful arms of De Sanctis.
Caceres, though, would not be so profligate when he was presented with the chance to be the hero, the versatile defender timing his arrival into the six-yard box to perfection before burying Pirlo's corner past a helpless De Sanctis.
Not to be outdone, Pogba, who had taken over in midfield from the subdued Arturo Vidal, made the points safe when he demonstrated wonderful technique in finding the bottom corner with a controlled volley from the edge of the area just three minutes later.
The result leaves Juventus three points clear at the top of Serie A and extends their unbeaten run to a staggering 47 games.
Lazio 3-2 AC Milan
Clinical Klose decides five-goal thriller
The Germany international's volley at the start of the second half ultimately proved decisive, in spite of a spirited late fightback from Massmiliano Allegri's men
Lazio heaped more misery on AC Milan by holding on to record a 3-2 victory over the struggling Rossoneri at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday night.
The visitors fell behind to a deflected effort from Hernanes midway through the first half before Antonio Candreva doubled the Biancocelesti's advantage with a stunning strike just before the interval.
Miroslav Klose made it 3-0 early in the second half and although Nigel de Jong and Stephan El Shaarawy dragged Milan back into the game after the introduction of the fit-again Alexandre Pato, last season's runners-up were unable to complete what would have been a remarkable comeback.
Even though the visitors had made their worst start to a Serie A campaign in 80 years, the under-pressure Massimiliano Allegri looked like he did not have a care in the world before kick-off.
The Rossoneri coach was given very little cause for concern during an opening quarter in which Milan coped comfortably with what little Lazio had to offer going forward, while at the same time threatening sporadically themselves.
However, when it comes to struggling sides, anything that can go wrong, usually does go wrong, and so it was that the visitors fell behind 25 minutes in when Hernanes twisted and turned his way past Daniele Bonera before unleashing a speculative effort which struck the defender’s outstretched leg and looped up and over the stranded Marco Amelia.
Fortune frowned on Milan again just moments later when El Shaarawy, having latched onto a through-ball from Antonio Nocerino, fired the ball through the legs of Albano Bizzarri only to see Andre Dias seemingly come from nowhere to clear off the line.
They were hit with another devastating psychological blow just before the break when Candreva unleashed a long-range drive that seemed to swerve in several different directions on its way past an understandably bemused Amelia.
Despite the benefit of 15 minutes’ respite, Milan still appeared punch drunk at the start of the second half. It would be difficult to offer another credible explanation for the way in which they defended Lazio’s third goal, with right-back Ignazio Abate missing in action and a dazed and confused Daniele Bonera staggering about the box as Klose clinically volleyed home Candreva’s measured cross from the right wing.
That looked like the knockout blow but Milan kept swinging and their fighting spirit was rewarded with a goal from De Jong, who did well to get his toe on Urby Emanuelson’s low, in-swinging free kick.
Suddenly it was the hosts who looked fragile - both mentally and defensively - and Milan set up a fascinating finale when El Shaarawy cut in from the left with just over 10 minutes to go and curled the ball into the bottom corner.
Milan poured forward in search of an equaliser but to no avail, meaning they remain 12th in the standings. Lazio also stay where they are, but the third-placed Biancocelesti are now just one point behind second-placed Napoli.