Juve returns to Serie A summit

Juventus’ players (from lefft) midfielder Stefano Sturaro, forward Paulo Dybala, defender Daniele Rugani, midfielder Claudio Marchisio and midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah greet fans at the end of the Italian Serie A football match against Udinese at the Juventus Stadium in Turin Sunday. — AFP

ROME — Paulo Dybala struck twice as Juventus retook top spot in Serie A from Napoli with a 2-0 victory over Udinese Sunday, as Fiorentina made an emotional return to action after the death of Davide Astori.

Argentinian Dybala followed his midweek Champions League winner over Tottenham with a match-clinching double, as Massimiliano Allegri’s men moved two points clear of Napoli.

Gonzalo Higuain missed a first-half penalty, but Juve took another comfortable step toward a seventh consecutive league title.

Fiorentina edged out bottom side Benevento 1-0, with the match stopping in the 13th minute as the players and fans paid tribute to their captain Astori, who died suddenly at the age of 31 last weekend in his hotel room before a game at Udinese.

Brazilian Vitor Hugo scored the only goal in the 25th minute, celebrating by making a salute towards a photo of Astori on the side of the pitch.

Juventus went into its home clash with Udinese knowing victory would pile the pressure on Napoli ahead of its title rival’s trip to Inter Milan later Sunday.

The 24-year-old Dybala continued his excellent run of form by curling a magnificent freekick into the top corner to give the hosts a 20th-minute lead.

Higuain missed a chance to double the advantage before half-time as he saw his spot-kick kept out by Udinese goalkeeper Albano Bizzarri.

But the deadly partnership of Higuain and Dybala, who have scored 42 goals between them in all competitions this season, combined again to finish off the match as a contest.

The 30-year-old Higuain used his strength to hold off the Udinese defense, before sliding in Dybala with a clever pass and his compatriot did the rest to net his fourth goal in three matches.

Dybala missed a great late chance to complete a hat trick when he fired wide, but Juve, which hosts Atalanta in a rearranged match Wednesday, was never in danger of failing to close out the win.

Elsewhere, Ciro Immobile grabbed Champions League-chasing Lazio a 2-2 draw at Cagliari with an equalizer in the fifth minute of injury time.

The capital club twice came from behind to secure a point Sunday, but can still be replaced in the top four by Inter when Luciano Spalletti’s side takes on Napoli.

Sampdoria’s push for a Europa League spot hit a stumbling block as it was thrashed 4-1 at struggling Crotone, while eighth-placed Atalanta edged out Bologna. — AFP

Hassan Usman Author

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