Juve open up four-point gap as Roma flop

Juventus’s campaign for a record sixth consecutive Italian title gathered pace Sunday as nearest rivals Roma stumbled.

A 2-0 win at Sassuolo enabled Massimiliano Allegri’s Juve to pull four points clear at the top of the table as Roma went down to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Sampdoria.`

And with a game in hand – against lowly Crotone – over all their closest rivals, Juve now look to be firmly in control of the title battle.

Napoli can join Roma in a share of second place if they beat Palermo at home in the Sunday evening match.

Roma led twice against Sampdoria in Genoa, but their title aspirations were dealt a deflating blow as strikes from Czech forward Patrik Schick and Colombian striker Luis Muriel turned the match around in the space of three minutes midway through the second half.

Muriel’s strike, which was to prove the winner, was a 25-yard, swerving, dipping free-kick that found the net with the help of a deflection off the wall.

Juve meanwhile were strolling to a comfortable 2-0 win at Sassuolo.

Gonzalo Higuain scored his eighth goal in six league matches to give the Turin giants an early lead after a sweeping move involving Alex Sandro and Mario Mandzukic.

Argentina striker Higuain has now hit the net 15 times in his first season in Turin and it was his pass that allowed German midfielder Samy Khedira to double the lead, and effectively kill the match as a contest, after 25 minutes.

For Roma it was a case of back to bad defensive ways as they conceded three in Genoa after a run of three clean sheets.

Luciano Spalletti’s men had gone ahead through Bruno Peres after only five minutes and, after Belgian midfielder Dennis Praet’s equaliser, they got in front again though Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko, only to see their efforts cancelled out quickly.

With Atalanta held to a 1-1 draw at Torino and AC Milan beaten 2-1 at Udinese, it was a good weekend for fast-rising Inter Milan.

Stefano Pioli’s squad moved up to fourth place with a seventh straight league win to sustain a remarkable turnaround in the club’s fortunes since Frank de Boer was sacked as head coach in November.

Inter cruised to a 3-0 win over bottom side Pescara on Saturday and have now won nine times on the trot in all competitions.

Defender Danilo D’Ambrosio and Portuguese midfielder Joao Mario put Inter on cruise control before half-time and Brazilian-born Italy striker Eder came off the bench to complete the  comfortable win after the break.

Inter face leaders Juventus next weekend in an encounter increasingly looking like a last-chance saloon for the chasing pack.

Inter’s rise was at Lazio’s expense with the Roman club dropping back in the race for European football next season after a shock home defeat to lowly Chievo, for whom Roberto Inglese sealed the points with a 90th-minute strike against the run of play.

Napoli v Palermo (1945)