Bonucci on target as four-star Juventus go 11 clear


Milan (AFP) – Premier League target Leonardo Bonucci hit an impressive fourth on the night as Juventus moved 11 points clear at the top of Serie A with a comprehensive 4-0 win over Genoa on Sunday.

Bonucci, a former target for Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, has been linked in recent days with a big-money move to Manchester City.

And the Italy centre-back underlined his all-round class with a great finish in the 64th minute of a largely one-sided encounter in Turin that saw Massimiliano Allegri’s men take another step towards a record sixth consecutive ‘scudetto’.

Genoa had stunned Juventus 3-1 at the Luigi Ferraris last September.

But days after holding Barcelona to a scoreless draw to advance to the semi-finals of the Champions League 3-0 on aggregate, Juve were never likely to buckle.

A bright start saw the hosts in front by 17 minutes, when Ezequiel Munoz tapped an own goal past Genoa ‘keeper Eugenio Lamanna after Claudio Marchisio had got the slightest of touches to Gonzalo Higuain’s delivery in deep from midfield. 

But if Genoa’s fans were aggrieved, they could have little argument two minutes later.

Dybala, the architect of Juve’s quarter-final tie against Barcelona — when he scored a first-leg brace — turned on the class to beat Lamanna with a crisp shot from the edge of the area.

When Mario Mandzukic picked up his own rebound four minutes before the interval, the Croatian striker pounced from the left of the area to curl a superb shot past the outstretched hands of Lamanna at the ‘keeper’s far post.

Bonucci had the ball in the net 10 minutes after the restart when he volleyed home a Dybala free kick at the far post, although it was ruled out for a Mandzukic foul.

Barely 10 minutes later, Genoa’s defence stood off as Bonucci burst through to hit a shot that appeared to take a slight deflection before looping over Lamanna from 20 yards out. 

Juve should have had a fifth but hit the woodwork three times. Marchisio’s drive came off the crossbar 20 minutes from the end and when Higuain pounced on the rebound, the ball then came off the post. Seven minutes later, Ghanaian midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah’s 25-yard drive also came off the upright.

Roma face basement side Pescara on Monday but even with a win the capital club will struggle to close an eight-point gap over the remaining five games.

– Balde hat-trick –

Napoli remain third, but are now 12 points behind Juve and could be four behind Roma after dropping two points in a shock 2-2 draw at Sasuolo, where striker Arkadiusz Milik came off the bench to hit a late leveller six months after suffering an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury.

“I’m very disappointed about the result because we’ve lost two precious points, but personally I’m very happy to be playing for Napoli again and to finally find the net again,” Milik told Radio Kiss Kiss.

Lazio stay fourth, after seeing a Keita Balde hat-trick in the space of five second-half minutes star in a 6-2 romp over Palermo that boosted their Europa League hopes.

Inspired by Atalanta’s 3-2 win over Bologna that pushed the high-flying Bergamo side up to fourth, Lazio responded to the challenge from Gian Piero Gasperini’s men in defiant fashion at the Stadio Olimpico.

A Ciro Immobile brace had Lazio up 2-0 inside 10 minutes and a Balde treble, including a 24th minute penalty, secured the points well before the half-time interval. 

“The lads did great, what I liked most is how they put into practice what we’d spoke about,” said Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi.

Balde is reported to be leaving Lazio, and Inzaghi added: “He’s a really important player for us.”

Atalanta are back in fifth at one point further behind with AC Milan, who saw Spanish forward Suso miss a second-half penalty in a crushing 2-1 home defeat to Empoli, still in sixth but now five points behind the Europa League places after a stunning 2-1 defeat at home to Empoli.

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