Milan: Carlos Tevez struck a league-leading 15th goal for Juventus in a 2-0 win at AC Milan, which gave the champions an 11-point lead over title challengers Roma on Sunday.
Roma sit second with a game in hand but are now lamenting a scoreless draw at home to Inter on Saturday, which cost them two precious points and a possible first title since 2001.
Spain striker Fernando Llorente and Tevez had been rested for Juve’s 2-0 second leg win over Trabzonspor in the last 32 of the Europa League on Thursday.
But Llorente hit his 11th goal of the campaign to open the scoring on the stroke of half-time with Tevez hitting a 25-metre screamer on 68 minutes to bring up his 15th league goal and take the league lead from the injured Giuseppe Rossi.
“Hats off to the whole team, they were extraordinary,” said Juve coach Antonio Conte, who has recently steered his side through a busy league and Europa League period to remain in contention for both titles.
“I have to say well done to everyone who’s been involved in all our matches up until now, because keeping that kind of rhythm is not easy.”
Milan’s second defeat in seven league games under Clarence Seedorf left the Rossoneri in mid-table, six points behind fifth-placed city rivals Inter.
“I’m pretty happy with our performance. It showed us that we are on the right road,” said Seedorf, who took over in early January long after Milan’s disastrous start to the season.
Milan had to reshuffle with Mario Balotelli injured and midfielder Sulley Muntari suspended, meaning a second consecutive start for striker Giampaolo Pazzini, who wore a face mask to protect his injured nose.
Despite a positive start, the first real chance fell to Juve, with Stephan Lichsteiner’s fierce close range shot blocked by ‘keeper Christian Abbiati after Llorente fluffed his shot.
On the counter-attack, Gianluigi Buffon did well to stop Pazzini’s first-time effort after Adel Taarabt’s weighted delivery.
Milan then spurned a golden chance for the opener when a great build-up between Pazzini, Taarabt and Kaka saw the Brazilian shoot straight at Buffon, with Leonardo Bonucci then clearing a Kaka shot from the rebound off the line.
Juventus broke the deadlock two minutes before the interval after an error by Adil Rami allowed Tevez to send Lichsteiner through to then cut back for unmarked Llorente to slot home from six yards.
Shortly after the restart, Tevez sent a warning with a low angled drive that Abbiati smothered, while Pazzini rose above the Juve defence to head Taarabt’s long ball into the arms of Buffon.
Milan threatened again, Kaka crossing for Andrea Poli but after glancing his header wide the midfielder was left grounded after a clash of heads with Martin Caceres. Poli was forced off and replaced by Riccardo Saponara.
Juventus finally underlined their class when Milan made the fatal mistake of giving Tevez time and space on the outside of the area.
The Argentinian collected from the left, took a touch and unleashed a shot that looped over Abbiati before coming off the underside of the crossbar and into the net.
Tevez’s 15th league goal took him past injured Fiorentina striker Rossi into the lead of the league scoring charts and won praise from Seedorf.
“Tevez made the difference. He showed tonight what a world class player he is,” said the Dutchman.
The hosts were lucky not to be punished further on 87 minutes when Paul Pogba fired a low, angled strike that had Abbiati well beaten but spun off the outside of the ‘keeper’s upright.
In the other late game, a superb fifth-minute volley from Loik Cana helped visitors Lazio stun Fiorentina 1-0.
Lazio moved up to eighth with Fiorentina failing to close the gap to Napoli in the final available Champions League qualifying spot.
Napoli, who suffered their second consecutive draw when held earlier at relegation-threatened Livorno, remain third at 17 points adrift of Juve but are seven ahead of Fiorentina.