Juventus 2 Empoli 0: Champions cruise to 10-point gap at summit
Juventus cruised to a 2-0 win over struggling Empoli in Serie A on Saturday to go 10 points clear at the summit and pile the pressure on Roma ahead of their trip to Inter.
The result was not as comfortable as it should have been given Juve's complete domination, but they eventually made the most of their superiority in the second half and extended their lead at the top of the table, with closest challengers Roma facing a tough journey to San Siro on Sunday.
Juve unsurprisingly controlled the game from start to finish and could not be accused of failing to create enough chances, but their finishing let them down in what was a wasteful first-half showing.
Mario Mandzukic was particularly culpable, as he spurned a host of opportunities and let Empoli off the hook.
But he was crucial to Juve when they did eventually find the breakthrough in the 52nd minute, with his header inspiring a Lukasz Skorupski own-goal.
Alex Sandro wrapped things up with a clever finish 25 minutes from time and Juve comfortably saw out their seventh successive Serie A win.
The hosts were in charge right from the start in Turin and crafted several opportunities early on, with both strikers guilty of missing the target in the first 10 minutes.
Gonzalo Higuain spurned their first chance, prodding wide from close range after Mandzukic's knock-down, before the Croatian followed suit, missing the bottom-left corner when latching on to Juan Cuadrado's teasing cross.
Mandzukic went close again in the 27th minute, meeting Dani Alves' cross from the right and heading past the post after outjumping Vincent Laurini at the back stick.
The Juve striker was then presented with a glorious chance to make amends for his previous mishaps after half an hour.
But Mandzukic overcomplicated things by attempting to dribble around Skorupski when picked out by an inch-perfect Higuain pass and the goalkeeper came out on top.
Miralem Pjanic then also saw a decent 20-yard effort narrowly miss the right-hand post just before the break.
Juve finally broke the deadlock early in the second half and Mandzukic was vital.
The forward's header from Cuadrado's cross struck the underside of the bar, bounced up off the ground and hit the frame of the goal again, before then bouncing off Skorupski and over the line for an own-goal.
The hosts then essentially put the game beyond Empoli just after the hour mark - Alex Sandro collecting Alves' pass in the left side of the area with his back to goal, before spinning and finding the far bottom corner with a perfectly placed effort.
Juve continued their search for more goals right until the end, with Higuain forcing Skorupski into action from close range in the final 15 minutes, but Empoli never looked capable of making them rue their missed chances as the home side eased over the finish line.
Key Opta stats:
- All of the last four Juventus' goals at home in the league have come in the second half of games, after scoring eight of the previous nine at the venue before half-time.
- Dani Alves delivered his first Serie A assist from his 23rd chance created in the league.
- Juventus have now won seven league matches in a row, their longest winning run this season.
- They have kept six clean sheets and conceded only one goal in these games.
- The Bianconeri have now gone 30 Serie A home wins in a row - they have never conceded more than a single goal in a match during that streak.
- Juve have picked up 66 points so far, only twice have they done better after 26 MDs since 1994/95: 67 pts in 2005/06 and 69 pts in 2013/14.
- Gonzalo Higuain has scored only one goal over the last three Serie A home games, after scoring four in the previous three at home.