Juve poised in Serie A after win and Napoli home loss
ROME (AP) — Defending champion Juventus was poised to regain control of the Italian title race, closing the gap on leader Napoli to one point with a game in hand after Paulo Dybala’s superb injury-time winner beat Lazio 1-0 on Saturday.
The script could not have been written any better for Juventus, which is chasing a seventh straight Serie A title and 34th overall. If Dybala’s 93rd-minute winner wasn’t already enough to celebrate, Lazio’s cross-city rival Roma then did Juve a huge favor by winning at Napoli 4-2.
Striker Edin Dzeko netted twice for a rampant Roma which jumped above Lazio and into third place by one point. They are in a fierce fight with Inter Milan — preparing for the Milan derby on Sunday — for a Champions League place next season.
Livewire Lorenzo Insigne gave Napoli the perfect start by sweeping in Mario Rui’s cross from the left after six minutes.
But home celebrations ended one minute later when in-form Turkey forward Cengiz Under scored an audacious but slightly deflected lob over Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina from inside the penalty area. He was found by Radja Nainggolan after Napoli lost possession in midfield.
Then, the imposing Dzeko easily rose above Raul Albiol to plant a firm header past Reina from Alessandro Florenzi’s cross. Both players were on Roma’s bench last week in the home loss to AC Milan, but probably won’t be anymore.
Napoli sent on all-time leading club scorer Marek Hamsik midway through the second half to spark its attack, and seconds later Insigne’s quick shot from outside the box curled just wide.
But Dzeko produced a masterful goal in the 73rd. Expertly controlling the ball some 30 meters out, he beat two players before bending the ball out of Reina’s reach and into the bottom left corner from the right edge of the penalty area.
Insigne was Napoli’s main threat and twice had shots saved shortly after Dzeko’s second goal. But Napoli’s awful defending could not go unpunished and Diego Perotti blasted in the fourth after a cross from the left was badly dealt with.
Napoli’s players hardly celebrated when Dries Mertens slotted in an injury-time consolation goal.
Paulo Dybala had done nothing all game for Juventus at Lazio.
That was until the 93rd minute when he brilliantly cut inside Luiz Felipe with a quick flick, showed great upper-body strength to hold off Marco Parolo, and fired into the top right corner while off balance.
The diminutive Argentina forward, who started the move by winning the ball in midfield and spraying it quickly to the right, sprinted jubilantly into the arms of delirious Juve fans behind the goal in the away end. His teammates mobbed him as he celebrated his 15th league goal, making him the team’s top scorer, one ahead of Gonzalo Higuain, who did not play.
Juventus neutralized Lazio striker Ciro Immobile, Serie A’s top scorer with 23, but created little until Dybala’s moment of magic.
Juventus was more concerned on keeping a close eye on Immobile, who scored four times in his last two matches against the Bianconeri.
He was not at his sharpest, yet hardly had any service.
Still, Juve’s defenders were glad to see him go off 10 minutes from time.
Midfielder Alberto Grassi’s goal early in the second half gave struggling Spal a much-needed 1-0 home win against Bologna.
Grassi, who is on loan from Napoli, struck from outside the penalty area into the bottom right corner.
The win moved Spal up to 17th place and two points ahead of Crotone.
Both sides ended with 10 men, although Bologna’s red card was more significant because defender Giancarlo Gonzalez was sent off in the 10th minute after fouling striker Mirco Antenucci.
Spal defender Federico Mattiello went off in injury time after a second yellow card.