Milan (AFP) – Alvaro Morata scored twice and set up another as Juventus warmed up for next week’s Champions League game against Porto with a 3-1 comeback win over Lazio on Saturday to close the gap on the Milan teams in Serie A.
Cristiano Ronaldo started on the bench before next week’s key last 16, second leg game against the Portuguese in Turin with Juventus trailing 2-1.
Champions Juventus fell behind to an early Joaquin Correa goal following a Dejan Kulusevski passing error midfield.
But Morata set up Adrien Rabiot to pull the hosts level before the break with the Spaniard scoring twice in a three-minute spell before the hour mark.
Andrea Pirlo’s side are third, seven points behind leaders Inter who host Atalanta on Monday, and one point adrift of AC Milan who play Hellas Verona on Sunday.
“Today we started the game 20 minutes late but it was normal because many were out of position and many returned (from injury),” said Pirlo.
“But there was a great reaction, we didn’t get down and despite the many absences we played an excellent match.
“For us it was a final, an important match for the standings and we’re happy.”
Paulo Dybala remains out injured along with defender Giorgio Chiellini and midfielder Matthijs de Ligt, while Rodrigo Bentancur positive for coronavirus.
But Juan Cuadrado started after missing three league games with Arthur and Leonardo Bonucci also returning off the bench in the second half.
Morata started up front alongside Kulusevski, with Ciro Immobile leading the Lazio attack alongside Correa.
And the Argentine pounced after quarter of an hour after Kulusevski gave the ball away, shaking off Merih Demiral to beat Wojciech Szczęsny in the Juventus goal.
Szczesny denied Luis Alberto a second eight minutes later.
Rabiot pulled a goal back six minutes before the break, picking up a Morata through ball to fire in a powerful left footed angled drive over Pepe Reina.
– Immobile draws a blank –
Both sides had chances after the break with Reina denying Federico Chiesa, Szczesny clearing from Correa and a Sergej Milinkovic-Savic header rattling the bar.
Chiesa set up Morata for the second after 57 minutes with the Spaniard completing a brace from the penalty spot three minutes later after Milinkovic-Savic brought down Aaron Ramsey in the box.
Morata made way for Ronaldo for the last 20 minutes with Arthur and Weston McKennie also coming off the bench in place of Ramsey and Cuadrado with Bonucci coming on for the final eight minutes.
Lazio’s top striker Immobile threatened but was unable to add to his 14 goals this campaign, drawing a blank for a fourth straight game as the Romans fell to their third defeat in four matches.
“It’s a defeat that hurts,” said Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi whose side’s hopes of Champions League football next season took a knock as they sit seventh, six points adrift of Atalanta in fourth place.
“We compromised the game alone, giving away an avoidable penalty. We made some mistakes and at Juventus, with some mistakes you don’t win.”
Sassuolo’s Europa League hopes further dwindled with a 2-0 loss at midtable rivals Udinese stretching their winless run to three games.
Spanish forward Fernando Llorente scored his first goal for Udinese just before the break with Argentine Roberto Pereyra firing in a second deep into injury time.
Sassuolo, in ninth, have won just two of 11 league games played since after Christmas. Udinese are four points behind in 10th place.
Spezia snatched a 1-1 draw at home against Benevento, in a match between promoted sides vying to stay in the top flight next season.
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