Juventus 2 Atalanta 0: Higuain, Matuidi open four-point gap to Napoli
Juventus eased four points clear at the top of Serie A with a straightforward 2-0 win over at Atalanta at Allianz Stadium on Wednesday.
Gonzalo Higuain and Blaise Matuidi netted either side of half-time as the Bianconeri took full advantage of their game in hand on title rivals Napoli.
Scoreless in his two previous league outings, Higuain made the breakthrough just prior to the half-hour mark with his eighth goal in 10 top-flight games against Atalanta.
The hosts never looked like surrendering that lead, encountering few concerns on their way to a ninth consecutive Serie A clean sheet.
Atalanta's chances of a late rally became even more remote when Gianluca Mancini was sent off for two yellow cards in as many minutes.
And Matuidi immediately made the advantage count with a second in the 81st minute, putting the seal on a 12th straight league win.
Juve welcomed Mario Mandzukic back into the starting XI after the forward returned from a thigh problem as a late substitute in the weekend win over Udinese.
Matuidi also came in as one of six changes to that team and might have opened the scoring if not for Jose Luis Palomino, the defender throwing himself in front of a goal-bound shot after the France international had brought down Miralem Pjanic's corner.
Higuain dragged the next opening well wide, but the striker found his radar with a carbon-copy chance in the 29th minute.
Brazil forward Douglas Costa sliced through the midfield from within his own half before laying the ball right to Higuain, who fired low and hard across Etrit Berisha to open the scoring.
The Argentina international went close to a second before the break, curling a fine effort around the far post as Atalanta survived to the interval without further damage.
8 - Gonzalo Higuain has scored eight goals in 10 Serie A games against Atalanta. Pitiless. #JuveAtalanta-- OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) March 14, 2018
Both teams had opportunities within five minutes of the restart, Paulo Dybala first drawing a save from Berisha before Mancini headed a corner wide.
Costa should have killed off the contest when he was put through by Higuain in the 64th minute, but the winger lacked his team-mate's conviction in front of goal.
Atalanta's chances of taking something from the game were all but ended by Mancini's sending off, the defender booked twice for a pair of mistimed challenges in quick succession.
Matuidi then kept a cool head to cap off unselfish work from Dybala and Higuain to wrap up a potentially crucial victory in the context of the Scudetto race.