Paulo Dybala hit a fifth-minute opener and Gonzalo Higuain added a quick second as Juventus FC humbled Lazio FC 2-0 on Sunday to restore their four-point lead over Roma.
Despite a poor record against the Turin giants in recent years, Lazio travelled to Turin looking to end the Serie A champions’ 26-match unbeaten league run at home.
But Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri overcame a number of enforced absences to send out a reshuffled side that should have finished with a far more generous tally, Higuain, his 87th minute replacement Mark Pjaca, and several other players spurning scoring chances in a fairly one-sided encounter.
Juve’s 16th win of the campaign leaves Allegri’s men four points ahead of Roma, who can reduce the gap to a point with a win over Cagliari in Sunday’s late game.
Napoli sit third, also at four points off the pace, following a 2-1 win at AC Milan on Saturday that left the Rossoneri fifth, 11 points behind Juventus.
Back in Champions League action at Porto next month, Allegri said: “I asked the lads for a big team performance because that’s what we need in Europe, and they pulled through.
“We made a few little mistakes but defensively they did really well. I realised in midweek we had to change a few things.”
Left smarting by a 2-1 defeat at Fiorentina last week, Allegri rested key defender Andrea Barzagli and although wingback Dani Alves returned from injury the former Barcelona star was only fit enough for a place on the bench.
Lazio were missing suspended Senad Lulic, with Dusan Basta sidelined with injury and striker Keita Balde Diao at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Simone Inzaghi’s men had lost their last eight meetings with Juve, home and away in all competitions, and despite their good intentions the visitors were soon playing catch-up.
On Juve’s first real chance, Mario Mandzukic nodded the ball into the path of Dybala for the Argentinian to send a delightfully-hit volley with the outside of his boot past Federico Marchetti and into the far bottom corner.
Lazio were stunned again barely 10 minutes later, although the visitors’ defence allowed Higuain to run in unchecked to meet Juan Cuadrado’s delivery from the right flank on 17 minutes.
It was Higuain’s 14th goal in 19 appearances and left the Argentine only one behind league leader Mauro Icardi of Inter Milan, who are away to Palermo later Sunday.
Inzaghi later slammed his players’ slow start, telling Sky Sport: “We gifted them the first 15 minutes of the game, then we finally got our house in order, but by then it was too late.
“We showed them far too much respect, especially in defence.”
A Lazio fightback failed to materialise, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s daisy-cutter going wide of the near post before Higuain’s glancing header from a free kick beat Marchetti only to be ruled offside.
Juve defender Leonardo Bonucci came close, too, flashing wide after running in to meet Higuain’s low cross.
A more determined Lazio emerged after the break but chances were few and far between.
Felipe Anderson fired straight at Gianluigi Buffon while Dybala drilled wide when unmarked Mandzukic was the better option.
Dybala should have had his second but somehow turned wide of an open goal after springing the offside trap on Higuain’s through ball.