Wed, Apr 09, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Llorente brace helps Juve replenish eight-point lead

AFP, MILAN

Juventus players celebrate their Serie A victory against AS Livorno in Turin, Italy, on Monday.

Photo: EPA

A brace from Spanish striker Fernando Llorente gave Juventus a 2-0 win over AS Livorno to restore the Bianconeri’s eight-point lead over AS Roma and edge the champions closer to their third consecutive Scudetto on Monday.

Roma’s faint hopes of a first Serie A title since 2001 were given a boost by Juve’s shock 2-0 loss to SSC Napoli last week, but a day after a Mattia Destro hat-trick inspired a 3-1 win away to Cagliari and helped close the Giallorossi’s deficit to five points, Antonio Conte’s men underlined their title credentials with a solid display in Turin that did little to boost Livorno’s survival hopes.

Juve have now amassed 84 points and, with six games remaining, remain on target to become the first team in Serie A to win the title with 100 points. Nevertheless, Conte is not celebrating yet.

“The championship is still wide open. We have rivals who are not giving up and, in our minds, we have to consider that Roma can win all their remaining six games, as well us our match against them [in Rome],” the Juve coach said.

Monday’s loss kept Livorno third from bottom, two points adrift of the safety zone.

Following Roma’s win in Sardinia, Llorente had posted a defiant Twitter message saying: “We either have to win or win.”

Yet despite a high-octane start, the Vecchia Signora had to wait 32 minutes before finally breaching the Livorno defense, with Llorente turning on to Carlos Tevez’s short pass from the left of the area to plant the ball in the roof of Francesco Bardi’s net. Three minutes later, Llorente met Andrea Pirlo’s corner from the right with a firm header which squirmed inside Bardi’s near post.

Moments before the interval a Paul Pogba drive spun off Stephan Lichsteiner, while at the other end Innocent Emeghara skipped past Martin Caceres and into the box before Leonardo Bonucci came to the rescue.

Juve countered after the resulting corner and Tevez was given time to send a 25m drive just wide of Bardi’s far post.

Llorente almost had his third 10 minutes after the restart, but pushed Pogba’s through-ball out of reach while to the right of goal.

The Amaranto were given a glimmer of hope by Ghanaian Alfred Duncan’s drive, which brought a spectacular save from Gianluigi Buffon, but Domenico di Carlo’s side showed little threat of scoring, never mind causing an upset.

Conte is likely to be counting on Tevez and Llorente for tomorrow’s Europa League quarter-final second leg clash at home to Olympique Lyonnais, who lost the first leg 1-0 in France last week.

Elsewhere in the Italian league, AC Milan soaked up the pressure in a dramatic second half away to Genoa to prevail 2-1 for a third straight win that sustained their hopes of clinching a Europa League place.

Goals in either half from Adel Taarabt and Keisuke Honda — the Japanese star’s first in Serie A — gave the Rossoneri a 2-0 lead by the 56th minute.

However, an own-goal by ’keeper Christian Abbiati after Marco Motta’s 73rd minute strike reduced the arrears as the hosts piled on the pressure.

Milan rode their luck when both Stefano Sturaro and Motta, whose follow-up was headed off the goal-line by Philippe Mexes, came close to leveling.

However, Clarence Seedorf’s men held on and although still in 11th spot Milan are just five points adrift of fifth-placed city rivals Inter in the second and final Europa League qualifying spot.

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