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Higuain haunts Roma as Juve go seven points clear


Turin (Italy) (AFP) – Gonzalo Higuain struck a first-half winner as record-equalling Juventus underlined their credentials for a record sixth consecutive title with a battling 1-0 win over Roma on Saturday. 

Roma travelled to Turin determined to reduce their four-point deficit to the five-time consecutive Serie A champions before the Christmas break.

But despite an improved second half, Luciano Spalletti’s men failed in their attempt to beat the champions in a league fixture for the first time since 2010.

As Roma lamented losing a sixth consecutive match in Turin, Juventus celebrated a 25th Serie A home win in a row — matching their own all-time league record from August 2013 to December 2014. 

Juventus moved seven points clear of Roma, in second, and were given a further boost when AC Milan were held to a goalless home draw by Atalanta that left them third at nine points in arrears.

Roma defender Kostas Manolas set the tone for a bruising first half in Turin when he tangled with Mario Mandzukic and sent he Croatian over the advertising hoardings.

But Higuain turned the tables on Roma only 14 minutes in when he rode Daniele De Rossi’s poor challenge outside the area to muscle his way past one of Serie A’s toughest-tackling midfielders.

De Rossi watched powerless as Higuain strode on, coolly pushing the ball past Manolas before beating Wojciech Szczesny with a superbly-hit strike that sneaked inside the Polish ‘keeper’s near post.

Roma were clearly stunned but in a physical first half the chances for both sides were few and far between.

Radja Nainggolan hit the side-netting for Roma and Higuain was flagged offside when he sneaked unnoticed to the back post where a quick snap shot forced Szczesny into a great save.

Manolas had the chance to make amends from a corner when the ball fell kindly in a crowded area, but from just outside the box his snap shot came of Stephan Lichtsteinter.

Roma livewire Mohamed Salah was only fit for the bench following his recent recovery from injury but replaced Gerson at half-time and not long after former Roma midfielder Miralem Pjanic was forced off with a sore hip to be replaced by Juan Cuadrado for the hosts.

Roma moved up a gear but Juve defender Daniele Rugani had to produce a timely interception to stop Roma striker Edin Dzeko going clear.

At the other end Szczesny was forced down low to save one-handed from Stefano Sturaro’s low strike after he muscled his way past his marker.

Juve coach Massimilano Allegri was forced into another change on the hour when Lichtsteiner was replaced by defender Andrea Barzagli, who recently recovered from a broken collarbone.

His arrival came in timely fashion as Roma began to edge closer to an equaliser.

Salah did superbly while under pressure on the right of the area to set up Perotti for a first-time strike that was little trouble for Buffon as he got down low to smother.

A Perotti free kick from the right evaded the entire Juve defence and was knocked on by Dzeko for Manolas, but despite a desperate diving header the Greek defender failed to make contact at the far post.

Stephan El Shaarawy replaced a hurting De Rossi in the final stages and forced Buffon into a dramatic fingertip save from under the crossbar.

But Juve kept the pressure on till the end, Szczesny again saving the visitors with a great save at the near post after Sturaro broke through.

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