Higuain haunts Roma as Juve go seven points clear

TURIN, Italy: Gonzalo Higuain struck a first-half winner as record-equalling Juventus underlined their credentials for a record sixth consecutive title with a battling 1-0 win over Roma on Saturday. Roma travelled to Turin determined to reduce their four-point deficit to the five-time consecutive Serie A champions before the Christmas break. But despite an improved second half, Luciano Spalletti’s men failed in their attempt to beat the champions in a league fixture for the first time since 2010.
“Juventus were better than us individually, they showed how strong they are tonight,” said Spalletti.
“We did well to close down some of their attacks but we were lacking quality in our final touches.”
Juventus moved seven points clear of Roma, in second, and were given a further boost when AC Milan were held to a goalless home draw by Atalanta that left them third at nine points in arrears.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri will hope his side can lift their first trophy of the season when they challenge AC Milan, who lost last season’s Cup final to Juve, for the Italian Super Cup in Doha on Friday.
But he said: “It was important for us to get the right result. We’ve left Roma seven points behind us, but the championship is still long.”
Roma defender Kostas Manolas set the tone for a bruising first half in Turin when he tangled with Mario Mandzukic and sent he Croatian over the advertising hoardings.
But Higuain turned the tables on Roma only 14 minutes in when he rode Daniele De Rossi’s poor challenge outside the area to muscle his way past one of Serie A’s toughest-tackling midfielders.
De Rossi watched powerless as Higuain strode on, coolly pushing the ball past Manolas before beating Wojciech Szczesny with a superbly-hit strike that sneaked inside the Polish ‘keeper’s near post.
Szczesny later hit out at his teammates when he said their “disappointing result” underlined the difference in the mentality between the sides. “We don’t yet have the mentality of champions, that is something we really need to work on,” the Pole told Sky Sport.
Roma were clearly stunned but in a physical first half the chances for both sides were few and far between.
Radja Nainggolan hit the side-netting for Roma and when the ball fell kindly for Manolas following a chaotic corner his snap shot came of Stephan Lichtsteinter.  Roma livewire Mohamed Salah was only fit for the bench following his recent recovery from injury but replaced Gerson at half-time and not long after former Roma midfielder Miralem Pjanic was forced off with a sore hip to be replaced by Cuadrado. — AFP