Juventus beats Empoli to move six points clear atop Serie A
MILAN (AP) — Juventus moved provisionally six points clear at the top of Serie A after beating Empoli 1-0 on Saturday.
Mario Mandzukic scored the only goal before halftime to send Juventus further ahead of Napoli, which visits Udinese on Sunday.
"Credit to the boys for winning 20 out of the past 21 matches," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. "Winning is never easy, especially in the final part of the season.
"We must not lose our focus because the hard part starts now. We need to keep racking up the points because Napoli isn't giving in."
Empoli had its chances and almost got off to a great start but Riccardo Saponara blazed over from close range.
Mandzukic put Juventus in front with a glancing header from a chipped Paul Pogba pass. It was the forward's first goal for Juventus this year.
Alvaro Morata earlier sent a curling shot off the crossbar from the edge of the area.
Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini, who only just came back from injury, limped off in the second half after appearing to aggravate his calf problem.
Empoli goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski almost gifted Juventus a second. He rushed out of the penalty area to clear and completely missed the ball, but was able to scramble back in time as Juan Cuadrado raced in.
Skorupski kept his side in the match, however, with a number of saves, including a fantastic triple one shortly before fulltime to deny Morata, Kwadwo Asamoah and Simone Zaza.
Earlier, Sassuolo won at relegation-threatened Carpi 3-1.
Sassuolo took the lead in the fourth minute when Nicola Sansone beat the offside trap to run onto Gregoire Defrel's flick and blast the ball into the roof of the net.
Riccardo Gagliolo leveled when he headed in a free kick for his first Serie A goal, but Defrel restored Sassuolo's lead 10 minutes later following Sansone's assist.
Francesco Acerbi sealed matters in the second half.
Carpi, which moved out of the bottom three for the first time this season after two straight wins, remains level on points with 18th-place Palermo, which visits Chievo Verona on Sunday.