Juventus pull clear in Italy

Serie A leaders extend their lead at the top after downing hosts Inter Milan 2-1 in thrilling Derby d’Italia.

Fabio Quagliarella
Fabio Quagliarella put the visitors ahead after three minutes with a superb long range strike [Reuters]

Fabio Quagliarella and Alessandro Matri scored one apiece for Juventus as the champions reinforced their Serie A title defence with a commanding 2-1 away win to Inter Milan here at the San Siro on Saturday.

Inter began the day 18 points adrift of the leaders and despite having a game in hand had hoped to close the gap as they continue to battle for a top three place that would guarantee Champions League football next season.

However, the Nerazzurri, who welcomed several players back late from World Cup qualifying matches in South America, were outclassed in the first half and, despite Argentine Rodrigo Palacio producing a superb leveller 10 minutes after the restart, the hosts were silenced again when Matri struck on the hour.

Juventus now sit 12 points ahead of second placed Napoli, who face Torino in a tricky away game later Saturday, and 21 ahead of Inter.

Strong start

Juve started strongly and took the lead when Quagliarella produced a great strike from the edge of the area which left Samir Handanovic clutching at thin air.

Italian Results

Saturday 30 March

Atalanta 0 -0 Sampdoria
Cagliari 2-1 Fiorentina
Genoa 2-2 Siena
Inter Milan 1-2 Juventus
Lazio 2-1 Catania
Palermo 2-0 Roma
Parma 3-0 Pescara
Udinese 0-0 Bologna
Chievo 0-1 AC Milan
Torino v Napoli

The visitors threatened again after Andrea Pirlo’s timely interception from a corner launched a counter-offensive and Arturo Vidal’s cross from the right found defender Leonardo Bonucci, only for his header to loop over.

Dominated in midfield, Inter were reduced to feeding Antonio Cassano a series of long balls, none of which produced the desired effect although the Inter striker forced a fine fingertip save from Gianluigi Buffon from a low drive 20 metres out.

An alert Buffon then produced a fine block on the goalline after Alvaro Pereira’s cross found the head of Palacio at the back post.

At the other end Quagliarella’s effort with the outside of his boot was tipped to safety by Handanovic.

Juve came close again on the half hour when a Pirlo chip found Vidal unmarked 15 metres out but Handanovic blocked before Andrea Ranocchia cleared the danger.

Minutes before the break Pirlo saw his own drive from the edge of the area, following a nice spell of one-touch football, force a diving save from Handanovic.

Inter came close to levelling but Palacio’s close-range header from Cassano’s cross on the right was easily collected by Buffon.

Inter coach Andrea Stramaccioni made only one change at the interval with Fredy Guarin replacing Pereira in midfield.

Brief equaliser

Palacio seemed to be Inter’s best bet for a goal and seized the day shortly after the restart.

Pirlo lost the ball in midfield to Mateo Kovacic, whose pass to Cassano found Palacio in space and he waltzed into the Juve’s area to beat Buffon with the outside of his right boot.

Inter’s joy, however, lasted only minutes.

After Simone Padoin had sent a warning by testing Handanovic with a snap-shot from Kwadwo Asamoah’s low cross, Matri beat Handanovic from close range after Quagliarella’s cut-back at the by-line.

Inter came fighting back and after a mazy run into the area Alvarez tumbled to the ground but Inter’s claims for a penalty were waved away.

From the resulting corner the ball fell to Cassano at the back post but his tame shot was straight at Buffon.

Moments later Inter saw another penalty claim ignored after Cassano, following a nice lay-off by Palacio, fell to the ground as he was dispossessed by Giorgio Chiellini.

Inter struggled to create further opportunities in the remainder and now sit sixth, seven points off the third place occupied by city rivals Milan, who are away to Chievo later Saturday.

Source: AFP