Milan (AFP) – Juventus continued their slow creep into the Serie A title race on Saturday with a 1-0 win over Spezia which moved them to within five points of leaders Inter Milan.
Alvaro Morata scored for the first time since mid-January with 20 minutes on the clock at the Allianz Stadium in Turin to keep Juve on the heels of champions Inter, who hammered Salernitana 5-0 on Friday.
Juve could find themselves seven points from the summit as Napoli host AC Milan in Sunday’s late match, with both a point behind Inter ahead of one of the biggest matches of the season so far.
However, regardless of the result at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, Juve are applying pressure thanks to a run of 14 league matches without defeat stretching back to the end of November.
Sunday’s was a far from accomplished performance from a team missing a host of players including Paulo Dybala, Weston McKennie, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Denis Zakaria.
Juve’s only goal came thanks to a dreadful error from Spezia goalkeeper Ivan Provedel, who hit a bad kick straight to Daniele Rugani.
The centre-back passed to Dusan Vlahovic, whose lay off to Manuel Locatelli was followed by a quick pass to Morata, who pushed a low finish under Provedel.
Spezia responded in the second half and had two great chances to level, with Emmanuel Gyasi heading a huge opportunity straight at Wojciech Szczesny five minutes after the break.
Szczesny then had to be at his best to stop Kevin Agudelo, the Poland keeper charging out of his goal with 10 minutes remaining to make sure the Colombian’s close-range finish didn’t earn Spezia what would have been a deserved point.
– Berardi hot streak –
Vlahovic’s replacement at Fiorentina, Krzysztof Piatek scored his sixth goal since arriving in Florence in January in a 1-1 home draw with Verona.
Piatek opened the scoring with a neatly taken finish with nine minutes on the clock but Gianluca Caprari levelled the scores from the penalty spot 10 minutes later.
Lucas Torreira then missed two sitters for the hosts who are 10 points behind Juve and all but out of the Champions League race despite having a game in hand.
Domenico Berardi continued his impressive season for Sassuolo with a brace of penalties in a 4-1 win at struggling Venezia.
Italy winger Berardi struck from the spot in the 17th and 71st minutes in an entertaining match in which Giacomo Raspadori opened the scoring in the second minute and Gianluca Scamacca netted another spot-kick just before the half-hour mark.
Berardi has scored 12 times this league season and is also in double figures for assists in the best campaign of his career.
With Federico Chiesa out for the season the 27-year-old will be in Italy boss Roberto Mancini’s thoughts ahead of the Azzurri’s crucial 2022 World Cup qualification playoffs later this month.
Alessio Dionisi’s flamboyant Sassuolo sit 10th on 39 points after a win which wasn’t all one-way traffic on the Venice Lagoon.
Thomas Henry cut the deficit to two goals when he headed home his sixth of the season shortly after Scamacca scored, but the hosts missed chances in a strong period just after half-time and Berardi punished their profligacy.
Paolo Zanetti’s Venezia are third-from-bottom on 22 points, three behind Cagliari who were thumped 3-0 by Lazio on Saturday.
Genoa are four points behind Venezia in 19th after Alexander Blessin became the first Serie A coach to draw his first six matches in charge following a goalless stalemate with Empoli.
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