Juve, Milan win as Napoli, Inter falter
A brace from Gonzalo Higuain helped defending champions Juventus to go four points clear of title rivals Napoli on a day of contrasting fortunes for Inter and city rivals AC Milan on Sunday.
Juventus travelled to Empoli, where the hostsâ€™ best result against the Bianconeri was a scoreless draw in 2008, confident of ensuring that they would remain on top of the table going into the international break.
Yet the Turin giants missed a host of first-half chances before Argentine striker Paulo Dybala finally broke the deadlock on 65 minutes with a close-range strike.
Higuain hits double for rampant Juventus
Higuain then pounced on Mario Leminaâ€™s precision pass only two minutes later to beat Lukasz Skorupski from the edge of the area.
Three minutes after that, the Argentine cheekily dispossessed Marco Zambelli yards from the Empoli goal to round the Polish â€˜keeper for his second of the day as Juve claimed a 3-0 win.
Higuain moves on to seven goals in all competitions this season, six in Serie A, in which he is level with compatriot Mauro Icardi after Inter stumbled to a 2-1 defeat at Romaâ€™s Stadio Olimpico.
â€œThe lads did great on what is a difficult ground to play at,â€ Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri told Premium Sport. â€œThey had a few counter-attacks because we didnâ€™t finish the job off on several occasions, but it was a different story in the second half. Once we scored, everything became much easier.â€
Totti scores in 23rd consecutive Serie A season
Juventus are aiming for a record sixth consecutive Serie A title this season and Napoliâ€™s first reverse of the campaign, away to Atalanta, is a welcome boost.
Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri, speaking immediately after a 4-2 win over Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday, had warned of the potential dangers of their trip to Bergamo.
After a bright start that saw Lorenzo Insigneâ€™s free-kick whizz past Etrit Berishaâ€™s upright, the visitors were stunned by Andrea Petagnaâ€™s ninth-minute opener and failed to recover.
Papu Gomezâ€™s cross inched over the head of Kalidou Koulibaly inside the area, but after ricocheting off the face of Faouzi Ghoulam the ball fell kindly for Petagna to drive past Pepe Reina at the â€˜keeperâ€™s near post.
Sarri goes to great lengths to talk down Napoliâ€™s hopes of winning a first title since 1990 after he took over from Rafael Benitez last year.
On Sunday, the Napoli handler turned philosophical when he said: â€œWe have to improve against opponents who are aggressive. These kinds of games, at difficult grounds, are the limit for us.
â€œBut if weâ€™re going to get better, we have to play these kinds of games. Itâ€™s up to us to show we deserve to bring the points home.â€
Inter Milan went off in search of a fourth win of the campaign that would keep their early season title hopes afloat.
But Frank De Boerâ€™s men had to wait until the 72nd minute to respond to Edin Dzekoâ€™s fifth minute opener, Ever Banega beating Wojciech Szczesny with a well-taken strike.
Only minutes later, Kostas Manolas rose to meet Alessandro Florenziâ€™s well-struck free kick to fire a bullet header past Samir Handanovic and secure the points that moved Roma up to third at five points off the lead.
â€œThis is a huge win for us, and for the fans,â€ said Romaâ€™s Dutch midfielder Kevin Strootman. â€œWeâ€™d dropped too many points, especially away from home. Now, we can look ahead.â€
De Boer admitted his side had succumbed to Roma in the opening half but added: â€œWe totally dominated the second half, a draw would have been a fairer result.â€
City rivals Milan, meanwhile, got the chance to offer club owner and president Silvio Berlusconi a late 80th birthday present with a thrilling, come-from-behind 4-3 win over Sassuolo at a buzzing San Siro.
â€œI got a phone call from the president, Berlusconi, who offered me his congratulations,â€ Milan coach Vincenzo Montella told Mediaset, one of the several companies owned by Berlusconi. â€œI told him the boys really wanted to win tonight to be able to dedicate this victory to him as a birthday present. He was very happy.â€