Juve close in on Serie A title, Honda scores for Milan
Two goals from Spanish striker Fernando Llorente gave Juventus a 2-0 win over Livorno to restore their eight-point lead over Roma and edge the champions closer to a third consecutive scudetto on Monday.
Roma’s faint hopes of a first Serie A title since 2001 were given a boost by Juve’s shock 2-0 loss to Napoli last week.
But a day after a Mattia Destro hat-trick inspired a 3-1 win away to Cagliari and helped close Roma’s deficit to five points, Antonio Conte’s men underlined their title credentials with a solid display in Turin which did little to boost Livorno’s survival hopes.
Juve have now amassed 84 points and, with six games remaining, remain on target to become the first team in Serie A to win the title with 100 points.
Conte, however, is not celebrating yet.
“The championship is still wide open. We have rivals who are not giving up and, in our minds, we have to consider that Roma can win all their remaining six games, as well us our match against them (in Rome),” Conte said.
“We’re both having a fantastic season, we’ve beaten record after record and we’re injecting life into a league in which teams are separated by 20, 30 points, although we didn’t count on being so far ahead.”
Livorno, meanwhile, remain third from bottom, two points adrift of the safety zone.
Following Roma’s win in Sardinia, Llorente had posted a defiant Twitter message which read: “We either have to win or win.”
But despite a high-octane start the Bianconeri had to wait 32 minutes before finally breaching the Livorno defence, Llorente turning on to Tevez’s short pass from the left of the area to plant the ball in the roof of Bardi’s net.
Three minutes later Llorente met Pirlo’s corner from the right with a firm header which squirmed inside Bardi’s near post.
Moments before the interval a Pogba drive spun off Lichsteiner, while at the other end Emeghara skipped past Martin Caceres and into the box before Leonardo Bonucci came to the rescue.
Juve countered after the resulting corner and Tevez was given time to send a 25-metre drive curl just wide of Bardi’s far post.
Llorente almost had his third 10 minutes after the restart but pushed Pogba’s through ball out of reach while to the right of goal.
Livorno were given a glimmer of hope by Ghanaian Alfred Duncan’s drive, which brought a spectacular diving save from Buffon.
But Domenico Di Carlo’s side were showing little threat of scoring, never mind causing an upset.
Di Carlo replaced Emeghara with Ishak Belfodil just after the hour while Sebastian Giovinco and Mirko Vucinic came on for Tevez and Llorente respectively shortly after.
Conte is likely to be counting on both his starting strikers for Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final second leg clash at home to Lyon, who lost the first leg 1-0 in France last week.
AC Milan, meanwhile, soaked up the pressure in a dramatic second half away to Genoa to prevail 2-1 for a third consecutive win which maintains their hopes of clinching a Europa League place.
Goals in either half from Adel Taarabt and Keisuke Honda, the Japanese star’s first in Serie A, gave the Rossoneri a 2-0 lead by the 56th minute.
But an own goal by goalkeeper Christian Abbiati, following Marco Motta’s 73rd minute strike, reduced the arrears as the hosts piled on the pressure.
Milan rode their luck when both Stefano Sturaro and Motta, whose follow-up was headed off the goalline by Philippe Mexes, came close to levelling.
However Clarence Seedorf’s men held on and although still in 11th spot the Rossoneri are just five points adrift of fifth-placed city rivals Inter in the second and final Europa League qualifying spot.
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Published: April 8, 2014 04:00 AM