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Dybala hat-trick stretches Juventus lead, Roma fall to inspired Fiorentina

Milan (AFP) – Paulo Dybala scored a hat-trick to extend Juventus’ lead at the top of Serie A with a 4-2 win at battling Benevento on Saturday as Fiorentina, inspired after the tragic death of their captain, beat Roma 2-0.

The Turin giants moved a step closer to a seventh straight Italian title, four days before they travel to Real Madrid needing to overturn a 3-0 deficit to reach the Champions League semi-finals.

Juventus now lead second-placed Napoli, who travel to Chievo on Sunday, by seven points.

But Roma’s third position is under threat as they fell at home to Fiorentina — whose captain Davide Astori died suddenly last month — and who claimed a sixth straight win for the first time since the 1959-60 season.

Malian forward Cheick Diabate scored a brace to twice drag Benevento back into the game but the rock-bottom side fell to their 26th defeat in 31 games.

“Congratulations to the lads because today was important to win after the defeat against Real Madrid,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri. 

“There are seven games left and today it was too important.

“The feeling was that we were at risk, the same feeling I had against AC Milan (last week) when we conceded many shots for the first time in months.

“We’ve got to take every last drop of energy we’ve got left to go for the Scudetto, Italian Cup and of course the second leg in Madrid.”

Dybala — who will miss the trip to Madrid after being red-carded in the first leg — opened the scoring after quarter of an hour and got the second just before the break for a penalty awarded after consultation with the video assistant referee (VAR).

The 24-year-old completed his treble with a penalty after 74 minutes when Gonzalo Higuain was brought down in the box, before Douglas Costa added the fourth eight minutes from time with a magnificent curling effort.

– ‘Nothing to lose’ –

“It’s difficult against these sides who have nothing to lose,” said Dybala as Juventus allowed their rivals, who were 65 points below them before kick-off, back into the game.

Dybala broke through on 16 minutes when Juan Cuadrado knocked down the ball for the Argentine international to finish with a left-footed shot from the edge of the box.

But six minutes later Benevento were level after Diabate tapped in the rebound.

The champions went into half-time ahead through Dybala’s first penalty after Berat Djimsiti’s foul on Miralem Pjanic.

Benevento were back level five minutes into the second half when Diabate rose higher than defender Medhi Benatia to head home a corner.

It was the 29-year-old’s fifth goal in five games for the club since joining the club in February.

But Dybala, who now has 25 goals in all competitions this season, put Juventus back in front again, before Costa sealed the three points.

– Astori ‘spirit’ lifts Fiorentina –

Already reeling from their 4-1 Champions League defeat to Barcelona in midweek, Roma’s spot in next year’s elite European competition is now under threat.

Tributes were paid before kick-off to Astori, who died last month at the age of 31, and played for Roma in 2014-15.

And Fiorentina coach Stefano Pioli credited Astori’s spirit with inspiring the side.

“The spirit of the group is making the difference, we are going beyond our limits,” said Pioli.

“Davide is with us, always, every day, in our hearts and our heads, we have made a commitment – give the maximum as he always did.”

Marco Benassi gave the visitors the lead after seven minutes at the Stadio Olimpico, with Giovanni Simeone doubling their advantage five minutes before the break.

“Things aren’t going our way like against Barcelona,” said Roma coach Eusebio de Francesco. 

Inter Milan can overtake Roma when they visit Torino on Sunday, while Lazio can also move level with their Roman rivals when they travel to Udinese.

Fiorentina are just outside the Europa League places in seventh — two points ahead of Sampdoria, who were held to a goalless draw against city rivals Genoa, and Atalanta who drew 1-1 at SPAL.

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