French teenager Paul Pogba scored a sensational brace to inspire depleted Juventus to a 4-0 rout of Udinese which helped the Serie A champions extend their lead over SS Lazio on Saturday.
Juve started their 21st match of the campaign with a three-point lead on both SSC Napoli and Lazio, but missing key midfielders Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal due to recent injuries.
After Lazio had to settle for a share of the points in a 2-2 draw at strugglers US Citta di Palermo, Juve took full advantage.
The champions now have a five-point lead over Lazio, who sit second on 43 points, and were hoping Napoli, third on 42, found similar trouble yesterday in their away game against ACF Fiorentina.
Pogba, signed in the off-season on a free transfer from Manchester United, had already scored two sensational goals earlier this season and the 19-year-old broke the deadlock near the end of a frustrating first half for the hosts by unleashing a long-range screamer which hit the crossbar before beating Daniele Padelli in the Udinese goal.
Juventus were struggling to build on their lead in the early stages of the second half when Udinese were unlucky not to score on the counterattack, but again Pogba came to the rescue, this time with a long-range daisy-cutter which slotted into Padelli’s bottom corner to give Juve a 2-0 lead.
Six minutes later, Juve striker Mirko Vucinic made it 3-0 when Padelli parried the Montenegrin’s close-range effort over his own body and into the net.
Udinese threatened through top striker Antonio di Natale, who saw a snapshot shave the top of the crossbar, but the former Italy striker appeared to be showing the effects of recent flu-like symptoms, which meant he only appeared early in the second half.
With 10 minutes left to play, second-half substitute Alessandro Matri made it 4-0 for the hosts when he latched on to a Vucinic through ball to nutmeg Padelli.
Despite missing Miroslav Klose, Abdoullay Konko and Ederson, Lazio had hoped to secure a win that would have kept them three points behind Antonio Conte’s league leaders, but after Vladimir Petkovic’s side were stunned by two goals in less than two minutes the visitors were forced to launch a late fightback to grab a share of the points.
Sergio Floccari gave Lazio a 10th-minute lead when he headed Cristian Ledesma’s cross over the static Samir Ujkani in the Palermo goal, only for Arevalo Rios (70) and Paulo Dybala (71) to give the hosts a shock lead.
It took a penalty from Brazilian Hernanes, after Floccari had been fouled in the box, for Lazio to draw level with six minutes left to play.