Spanish striker Fernando Llorente scored his third goal in two games as Juventus restored their eight-point lead over AS Roma at the top of Serie A with a comfortable 2-0 win away to Udinese on Monday.
Roma kept their slim hopes of a first scudetto since 2000-2001 alive with a 3-1 win at home to Atalanta BC on Saturday which reduced the gap to five points, but any thoughts Antonio Conte’s men, beaten 2-0 away at SSC Napoli two weeks ago, would suffer a slipup at the Stadio Friuli were quashed inside the first half hour of a largely one-sided contest.
Sebastian Giovinco opened the scoring on 16 minutes, with Llorente adding a second 10 minutes later to leave a hapless Udinese with a mountain to climb at a near empty stadium.
Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin tried to put a gloss on his players’ performance.
“We had a good game, we were courageous and I’m moderately satisfied with our performance,” Guidolin told Sky Sport Italia. “You can only take your hat off to a team when they’re much superior than you. Juve controlled the game, they’re strong physically... they’re the strongest side in the championship.”
Roma have won all six of their games since a 1-0 reverse to Napoli at the start of last month and although Juve could open up an 11-point lead at the weekend if they beat Bologna at home and Roma lose away to fourth-placed ACF Fiorentina, Conte said it would be a mistake to underestimate Rudi Garcia’s men.
“We know Roma aren’t giving up and although we’re in front we have to have the same attitude,” Conte said. “In this kind of fixture we could have dropped points here. Udinese are a side that let you control things, then hit you on the counterattack, but I think we got it right in terms of attitude, focus and application.”
With striker Carlos Tevez struggling with adductor problems, Conte rested the Argentine in anticipation of a testing run-in in which Juventus face SL Benfica in the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League twice in the coming two weeks.
It meant a rare start for Giovinco alongside the towering Llorente and the “Atomic Ant” seized the day by opening the scoring on 16 minutes after bustling past Maurizio Domizzi and beating Simone Scuffet with a left-foot strike which rocketed into the goalkeeper’s bottom corner.
Giovinco almost doubled his tally minutes later, only for Scuffet to parry the diminutive striker’s low drive round the post, but from the corner, the teenage goalkeeper was left exposed when he blocked Kwadwo Asamoah’s attempted tap-in which fell to Llorente to stroke into the net to give the visitors a 2-0 lead on 26 minutes.
It was the Spain international’s 14th goal of the campaign, all from open play.
Udinese re-emerged for the second half with more intent, but their spark fizzled out and they were soon back to chasing possession as Juventus re-established command.
After some scrappy opening exchanges, the Bianconeri edged closer to a third goal halfway through the second half.
Giovinco hustled down the right, but his lob for Llorente from the byeline was just too high and minutes later defender Giorgio Chiellini charged into the penalty area and cut back for Giovinco, whose shot came off Scuffet’s far post.
Guidolin tried to inject some life into his side when he replaced Hassan Yebda with lively Colombian Luis Muriel and with 12 minutes remaining iconic captain Antonio di Natale made way for Nico Lopez.