Juventus extend Serie A lead, 9-man Milan win


Rome (AFP) – Champions Juventus extended their lead at the top of Serie A to seven points with a 2-0 win at Crotone as nine-man AC Milan stunned Bologna 1-0 on Wednesday.

Having seen their lead cut by Roma’s 4-0 success over Fiorentina on Tuesday, second-half goals from Mario Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain kept Massimiliano Allegri’s team on course for a sixth straight scudetto.

“We could have done better in the first half, especially in the speed of our passing, but overall we were organised, giving away little or nothing and approaching the game with lucidity and organisation,” said Allegri.

“Roma and Napoli (third at nine points) are playing well, but we’re thinking about keeping our concentration on what we have to do.

“Also tonight, for example, we didn’t concede a goal and that’s something positive.”

The defeat leaves Crotone languishing in 19th place and nine points from safety.

The Calabrians did not disgrace themselves and proved stubborn opposition for an hour.

But they ran out of steam as Croatian Mandzukic converted a rebound following a header from Kwadwo Asamoah on 60 minutes.

With 16 minutes left, Higuain calmly slotted home when faced with only goalkeeper Alex Cordaz to beat.

That took his season’s tally to 16 league goals, just one shy of Serie A’s top scorer Edin Dzeko, who bagged a brace for Roma on Tuesday.

“We knew it wouldn’t be easy. We expected Crotone to get behind the ball, making it difficult to get forward and find the man between the lines,” said Juve centre-back Leonardo Bonucci.

“In the first half our tempo was low, but as Allegri said, we did well to remain patient, like we did against Inter and as we will have to in the next few games.”

Later on Wednesday, Milan ended a three-match losing streak in sensational fashion as Mario Pasalic tapped home from close range a cross from Gerard Deulofeu.

But victory had seemed improbable after the dismissals of centre-back Gabriel Paletta in the first half and Slovak midfielder Juraj Kucka just before the hour mark.

Centre-back Alessio Romagnoli had also been forced off with injury after half an hour.

Bologna toiled despite the two-man advantage and created few clear chances.

And they were stunned when Spaniard Deulofeu got to the byline and crossed through a defender’s legs for the unmarked Pasalic to stroke home from inside the six-yard box.

“There are moments during the season when you have to show that little extra, and today we did that,” said Milan coach Vincenzo Montella.

“We showed the spirit of this team and, given how the match went, we can say we deserved to win.”

Milan stay in seventh but are now just two points behind bitter city rivals Inter in the final Europa League qualifying spot.

It was more misery for mid-table Bologna after their 7-1 trouncing at Napoli over the weekend.

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