Cuadrado sends Juve six points clear

ROME: Juan Cuadrado broke his Serie A duck for the season with a sensational strike that sent Juventus six points clear of Napoli thanks to a 1-0 win over Inter Milan on Sunday. Title hopefuls Roma, currently third at seven points behind, can move back up to second place with a win over Fiorentina in their delayed game on Tuesday.
But the Giallorossi, still reeling from a 3-2 defeat to Sampdoria last week, are now under huge pressure not to drop further points following another defiant display from the 32-time champions in Turin.
Inter travelled west hoping to build on a superb spell of form that has seen Stefano Pioli’s men claim 25 points from their last 10 games.
But poor finishing and dogged Juve defending kept Inter at bay in a promising first half before Cuadrado put a smile on coach Massimiliano Allegri’s face with a slightly-deflected shot that beat Samir Handanovic at his top corner on 45 minutes.
Juve held on amid an at times bad-tempered second half, Ivan Perisic seeing red in the final minute, to secure an 18th win that kept them on course for a record-setting sixth consecutive title.
Inter, chasing a coveted Champions League place, remain fifth at 12 points adrift and five points behind Roma.
Juventus threatened from the start, Swiss midfielder Stephan Lichtsteiner allowed to waltz into the area to deliver a cross that found the head of Mario Mandzukic.
The Croat headed on for Paulo Dybala to hit a spectacular overhead kick that forced Handanovic into a two-handed block.
Dybala was one of three Argentinians, along with Juve striker Gonzalo Higuain and Inter striker Mauro Icardi, being watched in Turin by national team coach Edgardo Bauza.
When the Juve playmaker pounced on a loose ball soon after, he curled a shot over Handanovic that came off the crossbar.
Inter were rumbled, and finally moved up a gear but Roberto Gagliardini fired just over on the volley and Joao Mario drilled inches wide of Gianluigi Buffon’s post as the relieved ‘keeper looked on.
Perisic then turned provider for Gagliardini to head straight at Buffon, who was alert to Perisic’s header from seven yards out moments later.
Juve went on the counter and a galloping Mandzukic stole in behind Jeison Murillo to meet a cross on the bounce and send a diving header a metre wide.
Icardi then glanced a shot wide Buffon’s far post after a great Perisic delivery from the left, but Juve came fighting back.
Miralem Pjanic’s sublime free kick had Handanovic in a flap to save at the crossbar, but the hosts’ persistence paid off when Cuadrado pounced on a poor clearance to fire through several bodies from 25 yards out and beat Handanovic at his near post.
Juve should have doubled their lead eight minutes after the restart but Handanovic produced a spectacular parry to deny Bosnian Pjanic at the near post.
Geoffrey Kondogbia replaced Marcelo Brozovic and Eder came on for an ineffective Antonio Candreva on the hour and the extra legs provided Inter with an initial spur. Yet Inter ran out of steam and were thankful to Handanovic for blocking Higuain’s drive after he turned on Dybala’s pass in the area. — AFP