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New boys fire Juve into top four, Napoli on Inter’s heels


Milan (AFP) – Dusan Vlahovic and Denis Zakaria enjoyed dream Juventus debuts on Sunday with a goal each in a 2-0 win over Verona which puts their new team in Serie A’s Champions League places, while Napoli are hot on leaders Inter Milan’s heels after seeing off Venezia.

The duo made sure that Juve took advantage of Atalanta falling to a shock 2-1 home defeat to lowly Cagliari by beating spirited Verona in Turin to take their place in the top four.

Serbia forward Vlahovic took just 12 minutes at a foggy Allianz Stadium to show why Juve shelled out an initial 70 million euros ($80.2 million) to snatch him from Fiorentina, racing onto Paulo Dybala’s chipped through ball before sending a delicate lofted finish over Verona goalkeeper Lorenzo Montipo.

Zakaria, who arrived for 4.5 million euros from Borussia Moenchengladbach on transfer deadline day, sealed the points in the 61st minute when he was sent clean through on goal by Alvaro Morata and lashed home a precise finish which put Juve two points ahead of fifth-placed Atalanta.

Massimiliano Allegri’s side have played a game more than Atalanta, and travel to Bergamo next weekend to face a team who were blasted by coach Gian Piero Gasperini as “not good enough” following their loss to Cagliari.

Vlahovic’s 18th league strike of the season puts him level with Lazio’s Ciro Immobile in the hunt for Italy’s ‘Capocannoniere’ scoring award.

The 22-year-old should have added to his total shortly before half-time after superb interplay between Dybala and Morata led to the latter whipping over a perfect cross to their new strike partner.

However Vlahovic could only glance wide, leaving the door open for Verona — missing key players Giovanni Simeone and Gianluca Caprari — that was only closed once Zakaria struck.

– Napoli in title fight –

Victor Osimhen put Napoli at the heart of a three-way title race with a goal in his first start since November which helped his team to a 2-0 win at Venezia.

Nigeria striker Osimhen had made two brief substitute appearances since fracturing bones in his face in a sickening head clash at Inter, and he rewarded coach Luciano Spalletti’s decision to pick him by leaping to head Napoli ahead just before the hour mark at the Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo.

Andrea Petagna sealed the points in the 100th minute of a match extended due a clash of heads between the referee and Venezia’s Tyronne Ebuehi, as well as that same player’s late red card for a dreadful foul on Dries Mertens.

Wearing a special face mask he described to DAZN as a “good look for me”, Osimhen’s sixth Serie A goal of the season — his first since mid-October — put Napoli just one point behind Inter following their derby defeat to AC Milan on Saturday.

Napoli have played a game more than Inter but they host the champions next weekend before travelling to Barcelona for the first leg of their Europa League play-off with the Catalan giants.

“We have a lot of objectives this season and the Scudetto is one of them, so step by step and with determination I think we’ll get there,” Osimhen said.

Sampdoria took advantage by thumping Sassuolo 4-0 and going five points clear of Venezia, who dropped into the relegation zone following Cagliari’s win.

Marco Giampaolo’s Samp won thanks to two stunning volleys from Francesco Caputo and Andrea Conti, a goal from Stefano Sensi on his debut after arriving on loan from Inter and Antonio Candreva’s late penalty.

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