TURIN: Juventus went 10 points clear at the top of Serie A on Friday with a 4-1 win over struggling Palermo in a perfectly-timed boost ahead of their Champions League trip to Porto next week.
Former Palermo star Paulo Dybala played a pivotal role as the Argentina international pushed his former employers closer to the drop by scoring twice, creating another and also seeing a free-kick come back off the woodwork.
“We ended the first half at 2-0 despite not playing well,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri. “It’s one game less to winning the Scudetto and I congratulate the players for the way they approached the game.”
Palermo started the day eight points from safety and they were under the cosh almost from the start on Friday.
Dybala, Higuain help Juve cement lead at top
Dybala, who moved to Turin after three seasons at Palermo in 2015, was just centimetres from the opener after only five minutes when he clipped the post with a left-footed free-kick. But the Sicilians’ resistance didn’t last as Claudio Marchisio put Juventus ahead in the 13th minute, finding the net after goalkeeper Josip Posavec could only parry Gonzalo Higuain’s close-range shot.
At the other end, veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon got down low to keep out Palermo’s top scorer Ilija Nestorovski’s attempt from a tight angle.
It was a brief scare for the champions who went into the break 2-0 ahead when Dybala curled in a picture-perfect free-kick, this time to the left of Posavec’s despairing dive and into the top corner.
Higuain's brace helps Juve strengthen position on top
Higuain added a third and his 19th league goal of the season in the 63rd minute, latching onto Dybala’s delicately-weighted pass between two defenders. He repaid the favour to his international teammate one minute from time with a cheeky backheel allowing Dybala to slot the ball home.
Palermo scored an injury-time consolation through an Ivaylo Chochev header but Juventus will go to Porto for Wednesday's Champions League last 16, first-leg clash on a fresh wave of confidence.
However, Porto were in equally ruthless mood on Friday with a 4-0 win over bottom club Tondela taking them two points clear in Portugal.