Juventus took another step toward their third straight Serie A title with a comfortable 2-0 victory at Udinese on Monday evening at the Stadio Friuli.
Sebastian Giovinco put Juve ahead with a fine curled strike in the 16th minute before Fernando Llorente doubled the lead 10 minutes later. Giovinco hit the woodwork again in the second half as Juventus cruised against Udinese's toothless attack.
The win took Serie A leaders Juventus onto 87 points, eight clear of second-placed AS Roma with five matches left. The two teams are set to play each other in the capital on May 9, the penultimate weekend of the season, but Juventus will be hoping to have the Scudetto wrapped up by then.
If Juventus win their next three league games—home to Bologna, at Sassuolo and home to Atalanta—then Antonio Conte's side will be champions for a third straight season. Even so, Conte has said he is taking nothing for granted.
"The title race is still open. I’ve always said that," Conte told Juventus.com. "I expected the head-to-head with Roma to go down to the wire. They’re a strong adversary and will fight until the end."
In addition, Juventus remain alive in the Europa League and will travel to Portugal to face Benfica in the first leg of their semi-final on April 24. The return leg is set for May 1 in Turin.
Udinese, meanwhile, are 14th with 38 points.
Chances were scarce in the opening minutes as Udinese sat deep and looked to hit Juventus on the counter. Stephan Lichtsteiner created a dangerous moment for Juventus in the 15th minute, driving to the byline on the right before crossing to the back post, but his pass sailed inches too high for Llorente.
Moments later, the Bianconeri took the lead as Giovinco put himself on the scoresheet with a fine strike. Accepting a pass from Paul Pogba just outside the box on the right, Giovinco cut inside and curled his shot in past Simone Scuffet for a 1-0 lead.
The little Italian came close again in the 25th minute, when Scuffet tipped his shot wide of the post. Another minute later, Juventus doubled their lead as Llorente poked into the net after controlling the ball amidst traffic in the box following a corner.
Per @WhoScored, the goal was Llorente's third in his last two Serie A appearances following a run of three goals in 11 games.
Juventus had to defend in the 40th minute as Udinese's Antonio Di Natale tried to race onto a pass lofted over the top, but Giorgio Chiellini cleared the danger. The hosts appealed for a penalty in the 45th minute after Di Natale went to ground in the box under minimal contact from Martin Caceres, but referee Nicola Rizzoli waved play on.
With Juventus leading 2-0 at half-time, Giovinco told @JuventusFCEn: "I'm happy with my goal, it's an important moment of the season for us."
Udinese attacked more aggressively to start the second half, but still the hosts struggled to create clear chances. Di Natale won a free kick in a promising position, but his shot flew straight at the wall in the 55th minute.
As the second half progressed, Juventus became increasingly more comfortable in possession. The visitors had a half-chance in the 67th minute, but Giovinco's chipped cross from deep on the right was too high. Giovinco came close again two minutes later, shooting low off the upright after Chiellini had charged into the box with an incisive dribble.
Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made his first and only save in the 88th minute, turning away Maurizio Domizzi's low shot at the near post. Buffon was then beaten in stoppage time, but Luis Muriel's bounced shot hit the far upright.
|Juventus Player Ratings|
|Mauricio Isla (for Lichtsteiner, 75')||N/A||7|
|Mirko Vucinic (for Giovinco, 82')||N/A||7|
|Pablo Daniel Osvaldo (for Llorente, 85')||N/A||5|
Goalscorer Fernando Llorente called Juventus' win "decisive" and "important." Speaking to @JuventusFCEn, Llorente said:
Juventus host Bologna in the league on Saturday. Udinese host Napoli the same day.