Sun, Feb 19, 2017 - Page 11 News List

Juventus crush Palermo, extend lead

LOSING MOMENTUM:Ligue 1 leaders Monaco scraped by with a 1-1 draw against Bastia, a flimsy performance before facing Manchester City in the Champions League

AFP, TURIN, Italy

Juventus’ Stefano Sturaro, center, is knocked airborne in their Serie A match against US Citta Di Palermo at Juventus Stadium in Turin, Italy, on Friday.

Photo: AFP

Juventus on Friday went 10 points clear at the top of Serie A with a 4-1 win over struggling US Citta di Palermo in a perfectly timed boost ahead of their Champions League trip to Porto next week.

Former Palermo star Paulo Dybala played a pivotal role, as the Argentina international pushed his former employers closer to the drop by scoring twice, creating another and also seeing a free-kick come back off the woodwork.

“We ended the first half at 2-0, despite not playing well,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “It’s one game less to winning the Scudetto and I congratulate the players for the way they approached the game.”

Palermo started the day eight points from safety and they were under pressure almost from the start.

Dybala, who moved to Turin after three seasons at Palermo in 2015, was just centimeters from the opener after only five minutes, when he clipped the post with a left-footed free-kick.

However, the Sicilians’ resistance did not last, as Claudio Marchisio put Juventus ahead in the 13th minute, finding the net after goalkeeper Josip Posavec could only parry Gonzalo Higuain’s close-range shot.

At the other end, veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon got down low to keep out an attempt by Palermo top scorer Ilija Nestorovski from a tight angle.

It was a brief scare for the champions, who went into the break 2-0 ahead when Dybala curled in a picture-perfect free-kick, this time to the left of Posavec’s despairing dive and into the top corner.

Higuain added a third and his 19th league goal of the season in the 63rd minute, latching onto Dybala’s delicately weighted pass between two defenders.

Higuain repaid the favor to his international teammate one minute from time with a cheeky backheel allowing Dybala to slot the ball home.

Palermo scored an injury-time consolation through an Ivaylo Chochev header, but Juventus will go to Porto for Wednesday’s Champions League last-16, first-leg clash on a fresh wave of confidence.

LIGUE 1

AFP, PARIS

French Ligue 1 leaders AS Monaco on Friday had to come from behind to draw 1-1 away to SC Bastia in an unconvincing performance ahead of their impending Champions League showdown with Manchester City.

Sadio Diallo had given the struggling Corsicans the lead in the first half before Bernardo Silva headed Monaco level early in the second period.

The result maintains Monaco’s unbeaten record this year and extends their lead at the top of the table to four points from Paris Saint-Germain.

However, a buoyant PSG, fresh from their huge Champions League win over Barcelona, can close to within a single point of the principality side if they beat Toulouse at home today.

“Bastia were more aggressive than us and that was the difference,” Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim said. “We always play to win, of course, so this is a disappointment. Ligue 1 is not a training session, it’s a very important competition.”

Monaco had won their past nine top-flight meetings with Bastia and the Corsicans had gone seven matches without a win in all competitions coming into this one.

They remain in the relegation zone, but can be the happier side with the result, despite failing to hold onto the lead given to them by Diallo in the 18th minute.

Gael Danic crossed from the back post for Diallo to head toward goal at the back post. Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic got down low to claw the ball away, but goal-line technology confirmed the effort had already crossed the line.

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