Tue, Apr 17, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Juve close on scudetto after goalkeeper thwarts Napoli

AFP, MILAN, Italy

Benedikt Hoewedes of Juventus, right, scores past UC Sampdoria goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano, left, in their Serie A match at the Allianz Stadium in Turin, Italy, on Sunday.

Photo: AP

Juventus on Sunday galloped toward a seventh straight Serie A title with a 3-0 win over UC Sampdoria, pulling six points clear of SSC Napoli, whose dwindling championship ambitions were dented by a goalless draw at AC Milan.

The title could be tied up by next Sunday when Juventus and Napoli go head to head in a top-of-the-table clash in Turin.

Juventus would have to win on Wednesday at Crotone and Napoli lose at home to Udinese, while the champions would also have to win next Sunday’s game for the title to be decided.

“Napoli are having a sensational campaign, they are still right up there and I think the next two games could be almost decisive for the scudetto,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “We are absolutely not favorites for the scudetto. I want to thank everyone today, because it’s not easy to win like this after such a draining experience as the Champions League.”

Juventus showed they had put Wednesday last week’s UEFA Champions League defeat to Real Madrid behind them as they were greeted with a banner “Proud of You” and applause for captain Gianluigi Buffon, who was sent off at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Brazilian Douglas Costa was the architect of the victory, coming off the bench in place of the injured Miralem Pjanic to set up all three goals.

Costa crossed for Mario Mandzukic, who volleyed under the bar just before halftime, and dinked another for Benedikt Hoewedes, whose diving header found the mark on the hour mark.

The Brazilian then set up Sami Khedira for the third with 15 minutes to go, with Buffon denying Duvan Zapata a late consolation goal for Sampdoria.

“Douglas Costa was meant to come on, not quite that early, but it was part of the plan,” Allegri said. “We played with focus, calm and intelligence. Then Pjanic did the rest. He just had a thigh twinge and it was best to come off.”

A Gianluigi Donnarumma wonder save in stoppage-time denied Napoli a last-gasp victory at the San Siro.

The 19-year-old Italian — who became the youngest player to reach 100 Serie A appearances — dived to keep out substitute Arkadiusz Milik’s goal-bound effort two minutes into stoppage-time as Napoli lost further ground in the title race.

“We don’t care what Juventus do,” Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri said after a third draw in their past five games. “We are on our journey, the team did well and if we had played this performance with this result in the first half of the season, we would have been praised for it. Aside from a couple of crosses, we allowed Milan absolutely nothing.”

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