March 31, 2018 / 3:08 PM / 23 days ago

Cuadrado makes dramatic entry as Juve stretch lead

MILAN (Reuters) - Juventus winger Juan Cuadrado come off the bench after a three-month injury layoff to score the goal which set the Serie A leaders on the way to a 3-1 win over AC Milan on Saturday.

Soccer Football - Serie A - Juventus vs AC Milan - Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy - March 31, 2018 Juventus players celebrate in front of their fans after the match REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

Juventus, chasing a seventh successive title, stretched their lead to four points despite conceding their first league goal this year, scored by their former defender Leonardo Bonucci.

Napoli needed an own goal from Sassuolo midfielder Rogerio 10 minutes from time to salvage a point in a 1-1 draw against lowly Sassuolo.

Elsewhere, there was another contentious decision involving the video assistant referee (VAR) when Genoa were awarded a penalty and visitors SPAL had a player sent off for an alleged foul even though no contact appeared to be made.

Paulo Dybala gave Juventus a seventh-minute lead only for Bonucci, who left Juve at the end of last season, to head Milan level and end Juve’s run of 959 minutes without conceding a goal — the second longest in Serie A history.

Encouraged by that, Milan took the initiative and Hakan Calhanoglu rattled the bar with a powerful drive early in the second half.

Soccer Football - Serie A - Juventus vs AC Milan - Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy - March 31, 2018 Juventus players celebrate in front of their fans after the match REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

But, as so often, Juve dug themselves out of the hole, this time thanks to Cuadrado who met Sami Khedira’s cross with a diving header at the far post with 11 minutes left. Khedira himself fired the third.

With eight rounds of matches to play, Juventus, who host Real Madrid in their Champions League quarter-final first leg on Tuesday, lead with 78 points, followed by Napoli on 74, AS Roma on 60 and Inter Milan on 58.

Napoli fell behind to a Matteo Politano goal at Sassuolo, who are 16th and four points clear of the drop zone, and only rescued a point when Rogerio turned Mario Rui’s cross into his own goal under pressure from Jose Callejon.

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EARLY PENALTY

There was drama at Genoa where Gianluca Lapadula missed an early penalty against SPAL but was given a second chance after Francesco Vicari was controversially judged to have fouled him just before the half hour.

Vicari appeared to make no contact, but after a four-minute VAR consultation, the referee pointed to the spot and sent off the SPAL player. Lapadula converted but SPAL hit back with a Manuel Lazzarri goal on the hour.

Elsewhere, Inter Milan captain Mauro Icardi scored twice in a 3-0 win over Verona while Lazio blasted five goals in the last half hour to demolish table-propping Benevento 6-2.

Icardi, left out of the Argentina squad for this month’s friendlies which included a 6-1 defeat in Spain, got off the mark after only 36 seconds as he took his tally to 24 and Ivan Perisic was also on target.

Benevento had goalkeeper Christian Puggioni sent off after nine minutes at fifth-placed Lazio for handling outside the area and fell behind to a Ciro Immobile goal.

Astonishingly, the visitors hit back to lead 2-1 with goals by Danilo Cataldi and Guilherme but Lazio ran riot in the last half-hour, their goals including a second for Immobile, who took his season’s tally to 26.

Edin Dzeko came off the bench to equalise for third-placed Roma (60), who visit Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday, after Erick Pulgar had given Bologna a first-half lead.

Udinese slumped to their sixth successive Serie A defeat when they lost 2-0 at Atalanta, Fiorentina beat second-bottom Crotone 2-0 and Torino won 4-0 at Cagliari, with all their goals coming in the last half-hour.

Writing by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond

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