Spanish striker Fernando Llorente scored his third goal in two games as Juventus restored their eight-point lead over Roma at the top of the Italian Serie A with a comfortable 2-0 win away to Udinese.
Roma kept their slim hopes of a first Scudetto since 2001 alive with a 3-1 win at home to Atalanta on Saturday which reduced the gap to five points. But any thoughts Antonio Conte’s men, beaten 2-0 away at Napoli two weeks ago, would suffer a slip-up at the Friuli Stadium were quashed inside the first half hour of a largely one-sided contest.
With striker Carlos Tevez struggling with adductor problems, Conte rested the Argentinian in anticipation of a testing run-in in which Juve face Benfica in the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League twice in the coming two weeks.
It meant a rare start for Sebastian Giovinco alongside the towering Llorente and the ‘Atomic Ant’ seized the day by opening the scoring on 16 minutes after bustling past Maurizio Domizzi and beating Simone Scuffet with a left-foot strike which rocketed into the keeper’s far top corner.
Giovinco almost doubled his tally minutes later, only for Scuffet to parry the diminutive striker’s low drive round the post. But from the corner, the teenage ‘keeper was left exposed when he blocked Kwadwo Asamoah’s attempted tap-in which fell to Llorente to stroke into the net to give the visitors a 2-0 lead on 26 minutes. It was the Spanish international’s 14th goal of the campaign, all from open play.
Udinese re-emerged for the second half with more intent but their spark fizzled out and they were soon back to chasing possession as Juventus re-established command. After some scrappy opening exchanges the Bianconeri edged closer to a third goal halfway through the second half.
Giovinco hustled down the right but his lob for Llorente was just too high and minutes later defender Giorgio Chiellini charged into the area and cut back for Giovinco, whose shot came off Scuffet’s far post.
Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin tried to inject some life into his side when he replaced Hassan Yebda with lively Colombian Luis Muriel and with 12 minutes remaining iconic captain Antonio Di Natale made way for Nico Lopez.
Udinese, to their credit, kept pushing to reduce the arrears and Muriel came agonisingly close to an injury-time consolation when his mis-hit shot from the left of the box beat Gianluigi Buffon but came back off the inside of the post.