Unrelenting Mandzukic inspires Juventus
Mario Mandzukic overcame a wasteful first half to inspire Juventus to a 2-0 home win over Empoli that edged the Turin giants closer to a record sixth straight Serie A title.
Juventus, claiming their 22nd win in 26 games, moved 10 points clear of closest challengers Roma ahead of their visit to Inter Milan late on Sunday.
Napoli remain third but are now 12 points off the pace after a shock 2-0 defeat at home to Atalanta virtually ended their hopes of challenging for a long-awaited scudetto.
A Roma defeat at the San Siro would deliver a significant blow to their scudetto hopes, but Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said nothing is won yet.
"Absolutely not," he said when asked if Juve had one hand on the title. "Roma could be seven points behind us by tomorrow, we still have a lot of games to play, Napoli could get to 90 points and Roma 95.
"We need to win a lot of games and tonight, against Empoli, wasn't so simple. It took us until the second half to break the deadlock."
Juventus are also challenging for a third consecutive league and cup double and Allegri underlined those ambitions by resting several players for Tuesday's semifinal first leg with Napoli, and given Empoli's miserable record at Juventus Stadium there was little to suggest Allegri's choices would backfire.
Yet Empoli were a tough nut to crack in a balanced opening half that saw plenty of home chances, most by Mandzukic, go amiss.
After missing a number of chances to hit the back of the net in the first half, Mandzukic scored minutes after the interval when he rose high above the Empoli defence to meet Cuadrado's weighted delivery.
His powerful header beat the Empoli ‘keeper, smacked off the underside of the crossbar and eventually cleared the line after bouncing back off the splayed 'keeper and into the net for a 52nd minute own goal.
Dani Alves hit Juve's second in Porto last Wednesday when he coolly chested down Alex Sandro's cross and the Brazilian returned the favour for his countryman in the 65th minute. Sandro was left unmarked on the left side of the area in the 65th minute to pivot around his marker and beat Skorupski with a low angled drive at his far post.