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Serie A: Juve maintain lead; Napoli hold on

Juan CuadradoJuan Cuadrado’s seventh-minute goal helped Juventus preserve their dominant lead at the top of the Serie A table while ending Sampdoria’s unbeaten run.

The 1-0 victory at the Marassi means Juve are once again 10 points clear of Napoli, who beat Empoli earlier on Sunday, with only nine games of the season remaining.

Chelsea loanee Cuadrado missed last week’s victory over AC Milan but featured in the Champions League win over Porto, and that 45-minute outing put the energy in his legs he needed to race in behind the Samp back line and nod in a sumptuous Kwadwo Asamoah cross.

The Blucerchiati, who had won five and drawn two of their last seven games, offered little attacking threat but proved hard to break down, and they head into the international break occupying a comfortable ninth-place berth in the league.

In Sunday’s lunchtime match, Napoli resisted a late fightback from lowly Empoli to win 3-2.

Lorenzo Insigne followed up his brace against Crotone with another double, the Italy striker opening the scoring and then converting a penalty after Dries Mertens had notched in spectacular style to reach 20 goals for the season. The Belgian had earlier seen his spot-kick saved by Lukasz Skorupski.

The Azzurri thought a three-goal lead over the 17th-placed club was enough to see them through but Empoli thought otherwise with Omar El Kaddouri spoiling the southerners’ clean sheet before veteran substitute Massimo Maccarone scored a late penalty to set up a nervous finale.

Roma rallied to defeat Sassuolo 3-1 and move back into second place.

Gregoire Defrel gave the lowly northerners a surprise ninth-minute lead but Leandro Paredes soon restored parity and Mohamed Salah struck in first-half stoppage time to turn the game around.

Midway through the second period, Bosnian substitute Edin Dzeko reached 21 goals for the 2016-17 campaign.

Lazio had an opportunity to close the gap on third place when they visited Cagliari.

Simone Inzaghi’s men were only able to creep one point nearer to Napoli, though, as the Sardinians held them to a goalless draw at the Sant’Elia.

Atalanta are also targeting a lofty finishing position and had no such worries in front of goal when they trounced basement boys Pescara 3-0 in Bergamo.

Argentinian forward Alejandro Gomez both opened and closed the scoring, first converting Hans Hateboer’s 13th-minute assist and then making sure of the result in the third minute of second-half stoppage time, as Alberto Grassi had notched in between times for the sixth-placed side.

Fiorentina needed a last-gasp goal from Nikola Kalinic at Crotone to record a 1-0 victory that keeps their dream of securing Europa League football alive.

Elsewhere, Bologna banished any lingering fears of relegation by pulling 19 points clear of the drop zone with a 4-1 home win over Chievo.

The Rossoblu had to recover from behind to claim their best result since December as Lucas Castro had put the visiting Flying Donkeys ahead five minutes before half-time.

When play resumed, Bologna let rip, with Simone Verdi equalising before Blerim Dzemaili bagged a brace, leaving substitute Federico Di Francesco to add the gloss to an impressive scoreline for Roberto Donadoni’s team.

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