Juventus extended their lead in Serie A and took a step closer to a sixth successive Scudetto when Juan Cuadrado’s early goal was enough to beat a spirited Sampdoria 1-0 on Sunday, while title hopefuls Roma and Napoli beat Sassuolo and Empoli respectively.
Juventus’s win takes them up to 73 points with nine games to play, eight clear of second-placed Roma who beat Sassuolo 3-1 at home, and 10 ahead of Napoli, 3-2 victors at Empoli.
Cuadrado, making his 50th appearance for the reigning champions, met Kwadwo Asamoah’s excellent cross from the left in the seventh minute with a diving header to give Massimiliano Allegri’s relentless league leaders an early lead.
Juve wilted after the break, to Allegri’s chagrin, while Sampdoria came out battling and almost equalised when the outstanding Asamoah was forced to deny Patrik Schnick with an exceptional last-gasp interception.
“These three points are a step forward,” Allegri told Sky Italia. “It was important to win today because after the international break we’ve got a hard fixture list.
“The lads had one of our best first-half performances of the season, playing well and creating many chances, but we couldn’t sustain the tempo.”
Juventus paid tribute to goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon who broke Giampiero Boniperti’s 16-year record for Serie A minutes played for the club as Sunday’s match passed the 65th minute.
Roma responded to their midweek Europa League elimination by Olympique Lyonnais and kept a semblance of pressure on the leaders with a come-from-behind triumph against Sassuolo.
The visitors took the lead through Gregoire Defrel in the ninth minute but Roma shook off their European hangover and equalised when Leandro Paredes struck a low drive from 25 metres in the 16th minute.
Mohamed Salah gave Roma the lead with a close-range finish moments before halftime and Edin Dzeko made sure of the points in the 68th minute when he fired home after a superb one-two with Kevin Strootman.