Roma’s bid to challenge for a first scudetto since 2001 hit the skids on Saturday when Palermo held Rudi Garcia’s men to a 1-1 draw in Sicily. It was the Giallorossi’s second consecutive draw and Juve, who hammered Verona 6-1 in a Coppa Italia last-16 tie in midweek, had no trouble capitalising.
Verona had never beaten Juventus in Turin and the visitors’ chances of causing a major upset looked over inside three minutes when Frenchman Paul Pogba beat Rafael with a long-distance screamer. Tevez, who was rested for Thursday’s Cup tie, doubled Juve’s lead four minutes later when he latched on to Alvaro Morata’s deflected cross after a Pogba dummy to beat Rafael from 12 yards out.
Andrea Pirlo almost made it three soon after but his dipping free kick from 30 yards out came off the crossbar. Claudio Marchisio, Tevez and Morata spurned further chances to add to the scoreline after the break but Roberto Pereyra seized his chance with both hands in the 66th minute. Defender Giorgio Chiellini set up the midfielder down the left and Pereyra expertly fired past Rafael and into the far top corner for his first league goal in Juve colours, having opened his account in the Cup on Thursday.
Tevez’s second came barely ten minutes later, the Argentinian nutmegging Rafael from close range after Marchisio’s short pass to net his league-leading 13th of the season. Roma sit second at five points with Napoli and Sampdoria, in fourth, a further eight points behind.
Earlier, Sampdoria and Fiorentina scored precious away wins to maintain their hopes of European football next season as AC Milan saw their chances of UEFA Champions League football dented by a shock 1-0 home loss to Atalanta. Gonzalo Bergessio and Roberto Soriano pounced on poor Parma defending to score one apiece in the second half to hand Sampdoria a second consecutive win for the first time since October.
Having lost only twice this season and with strikers Luis Muriel and Samuel Eto’o reportedly on the verge of signing, coach Sinisa Mihajlovic was buoyant. “No other Samp side has amassed so many points at this stage of the season. We’ve lost only twice in 19 games so I’m very happy,” he told Sky Sport.
Fiorentina ended a two-month wait to string two wins together when Senegalese centre-forward Khouma Babacar sent a looping header over goalkeeper Benjamin Bizzarri to seal a last-gasp 2-1 win over Chievo. La Viola’s eighth win of the campaign moved them up to sixth, 13 points adrift of champions Juve but only three behind Napoli in the third and final Champions League qualifying place.
Montella was quick to praise Babacar, but told Sky:
“I’m happy Babacar scored the decisive goal but I still believe he has so much more to offer.”
Milan were stunned 1-0 at the San Siro by Atalanta when German Denis beat Spanish keeper Diego Lopez with the outside of his right boot just after the half hour. Milan remain in eighth but are now seven points behind Napoli, who had Gonzalo Higuain’s 18th minute strike to thank for a precious win away at Lazio in the day’s early match.
Milan coach Filippo Inzaghi accepted blame for the reverse, but added:
“We have to wake up and start playing better, right now we’re missing something and I have to shoulder the responsibility. Maybe we’re a little anxious about our situation, but we can’t forget this is Milan and it’s up to us to impose our game.”