MILAN Gonzalo Higuain struck again with a trademark goal to give Serie A leaders Juventus a 1-0 win over AS Roma in a tense top-of-the-table match which put them seven points clear on Saturday.
The Argentine's 10th goal of the season and his third in the last two games gave Juve their 25th successive home league win and put them on course for a sixth successive Serie A title.
Roma, forced to chase the game after Higuain struck in the 14th minute, had long periods of possession which they failed to turn into real chances and now face another long chase after the Turin side.
With one match to go before the Christmas break, Juventus have 42 points from 17 games, followed by Roma on 35 and AC Milan on 33 after they were held 0-0 at home by Atalanta.
It was a familiar story for Roma who have been runners-up to Juve twice in the last three seasons.
Higuain saw an early shot saved by Wojciech Szczesny before putting Juventus ahead in style.
The former Napoli and Real Madrid player received a pass some 30 metres from goal, won a tussle with Daniele De Rossi, slipped past Kostas Manolos and blasted a left-foot shot in off the post from the edge of the area.
Roma managed to compose themselves after that early setback and their best chances fell to Manolos from corners.
The Greek defender had a close-range shot blocked during a goalmouth scramble in the first half and headed wide at the far post in the second half.
They won eight corners to Juve's five but resorted to long crosses too often and, for all their pressure, had only three shots on target.
At the other end, Szczesny made a brilliant save to deny Stefano Sturaro after Mario Mandzukic's back-heel gave him a free shot on goal.
AC Milan were foiled by the woodwork and some desperate defending in a goalless draw against Atalanta at cold, foggy San Siro, their second match without scoring.
An end-to-end match could easily have produced several goals as both teams created chances.
Milan's effort came just before halftime when Luca Antonelli blasted a shot against the post, seconds after goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma had saved Roberto Gagliardini's header at the other end.
Milan twice got past Marco Sportiello in the second half but Gianluca Lapadula saw his shot cleared off the line by Mattia Caldara while Carlos Bacca, having rounded the Atalanta goalkeeper, was foiled by Andrea Conti's last-ditch clearance.
Empoli, who had failed to score in 13 games this season, beat Cagliari 2-0 in a match which pitted the league's worst attack against its leakiest defence.
Levan Mchedlidze scored both goals as Empoli, 17th in the table, took their tally to a modest nine goals in 17 games, while Cagliari's defence have shipped 39.
The Sardinians, who are 14th, missed a late penalty when Joao Pedro's effort was parried by Lukasz Skorupski.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Clare Fallon)