MILAN, Feb 17 — Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado scored as Juventus rediscovered their winning form, beating 10-man Brescia 2-0 to reclaim top spot in Serie A before title rivals Inter Milan and Lazio clash later yesterday.
Argentine forward Dybala curled in a perfect free kick six minutes before the break, shortly after Brescia’s Florian Aye was sent off for two yellow cards in quick succession.
Colombian Cuadrado tapped in the second from close range after a Blaise Matuidi cross with 15 minutes to go, as the champions bounced back from last weekend’s shock defeat at Hellas Verona.
“We did what we had to do,” said Juve coach Maurizio Sarri, whose side had lost two of their previous three games.
Juventus move three points clear of Inter, with Lazio a further point back in third ahead of the pair’s huge encounter at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Cristiano Ronaldo was rested for yesterday's game in Turin, but veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini returned after a long injury layoff.
“Cristiano had to rest, he cannot play 75 games a year between the national team and club, we decided to let him recuperate,” said Sarri.
Sarri said 35-year-old skipper Chiellini had been desperate to get onto the pitch.
“Chiellini put himself on the pitch by himself,” said Sarri.
“He said it yesterday, he has made six months of sacrifices and wanted to play.”
The champions did not have it all their own way against lowly Brescia, who stay second-from-bottom, seven points from safety after extending their winless run to nine games.
Enrico Alfonso went off after just 10 minutes following a knock to the head, with substitute Brescia keeper Lorenzo Andrenacci pulling off some fine saves.
Mertens lifts Napoli
Chiellini returned for the final 12 minutes after rupturing cruciate ligaments in his right knee at the end of August.
“The worst is over, but now the difficult part begins,” said the Italy international.
“We are still top of the league, in the semi-finals of the Italian Cup and in the last 16 of the Champions League.”
Teammate Miralem Pjanic came on midway through the second half but limped off with a muscle problem seven minutes later, a worry for Sarri before their short trip to Lyon in 10 days’ time.
In Sardinia, Napoli got back to winning ways with a Dries Mertens’ 65th-minute goal sealing a 1-0 success over Cagliari.
The Belgian completed a give-and-go with Elseid Hysaj with the ball curling in with a deflection off the post.
It was the 32-year-old’s 120th goal for Napoli, one short of Marek Hamsik’s all-time record, and five ahead of club legend Diego Maradona.
Gennaro Gattuso’s side overtake Calgiari, moving up to eighth, two points off the Europa League berths, as they prepare for their Champions League last 16 clash with Barcelona on February 25.
Cagliari, without a win since before Christmas, drop to 11th place.
Earlier Hellas Verona missed the chance to close in on fifth-placed Roma, who fell 2-1 at Atalanta on Saturday, with a goalless draw at Udinese.
Verona, in sixth, occupy the final Europa League spot ahead of Parma on goal difference, but stay four points behind Roma.
Parma moved level on 35 points after winning at Sassuolo 1-0, with Ivorian Gervinho scoring the only goal after 25 minutes.
Fiorentina, in 13th, crushed struggling Sampdoria 5-1 after consecutive defeats to Juventus and Atalanta, with both teams playing the second half with ten men.
Federico Chiesa and Dusan Vlahovic bagged a brace apiece, including one each from the penalty spot, with the Tuscan side’s opening goal a gift from Sampdoria midfielder Morten Thorsby who turned into his own net after eight minutes in Genoa. — AFP