Goal feast takes Juve closer to the title

Rome: Juventus remained on course for their first Serie A crown in nine seasons after crushing relegation-threatened Novara 4-0 as AC Milan stayed three points adrift with a 4-1 win at Siena.

A brace from Mirko Vucinic and goals from Marco Borriello and Arturo Vidal on Sunday helped unbeaten Juventus record their eighth success in a row to reach 77 points with three matches left.

The Bianconeri, who have a better head-to-head record against Milan, could clinch the title as early as Wednesday should they defeat Lecce and Milan lose to Atalanta.

Despite the heavy defeat Novara, eight points adrift of safety, were not condemned to Serie B after third-from-bottom Lecce were beaten 2-1 at home by improving Parma.

Coach Antonio Conte admitted Juve could only lose the scudetto now.

"Three days ago Novara beat Lazio so we knew it wouldn`t be easy but we got the early goal and we kept our concentration right until the end," he said.

At Novara, Borriello almost gave Juve a second-minute advantage with a left-foot shot that flew just the wrong side of the far post.

But with the away side piling forward the lead arrived soon after when another former Roma striker, Vucinic, cleverly steered home Andrea Pirlo`s 16th-minute free kick.

The Bianconeri doubled their lead five minutes before the break when an unmarked Borriello headed home Emanuele Giaccherini`s inviting centre.

Chilean midfielder Vidal made sure of the points five minutes after the restart, stroking the ball home after goalkeeper Alberto Santana had halted Vucinic`s charge, before the livewire Vucinic struck his second of the afternoon on 64 minutes.

Milan kept pace with Juve after frontmen Antonio Cassano and Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck in three first half minutes to defeat Siena.

Cassano swept home on 26 minutes after home goalkeeper Zeljko Brkic could only parry an Ibrahimovic strike before the Swede struck with a left-foot blast to double the lead on 29 minutes after being played in by his Italian strike partner.

Substitute Erjon Bogdani pulled a goal back for the home side with seven minutes to play but Antonio Nocerino made the game safe for Milan with a last-minute strike with Ibrahimovic plundering his 26th Serie A goal of the campaign in stoppage time.

Cassano`s goal was his first since returning from heart surgery.

The 29-year-old international, who underwent surgery on November 14, last found the net against Palermo on October 15.

"It`s been a very good championship," said Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri.

"We will try to push until the end but if they finish ahead of us then they deserve to win."

Inter Milan moved level on 55 points with Napoli, Lazio and Udinese in the battle for the third Champions League spot after coming from behind to defeat relegated Cesena 2-1.

Luca Ceccarelli gave the visitors a surprise 57th-minute lead before Nigerian midfielder Joel Obi equalised two minutes later with substitute Mauro Zarate grabbing a 72nd-minute winner for the Nerazzurri.

In Sunday`s late match, Udinese defeated fading Lazio 2-0 for their first win in four matches. Antonio Di Natale blasted home a trademark volley with 20 minutes - his 21st goal of the campaign - before substitute Roberto Pereyra added a second in stoppage time in bizarre circumstances after the Lazio defence stopped playing.

Brazilian centre-back Andre Dias, who motioned he had heard a whistle, was sent off in the dying stages for protesting.

In other games, Atalanta defeat edFiorentina 2-0 and struggling Genoa lost 3-2 at at Bologna. (AFP)


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