A quick-fire Fernando Llorente double allowed Juventus to beat Livorno 2-0 and restore their eight-point lead over Roma.
The gap at the top of the table had temporarily been closed to five points with Roma’s victory in Cagliari yesterday, so the pressure was on Juve. Arturo Vidal was suspended and Andrea Barzagli injured, but Carlos Tevez started despite a muscular problem ahead of Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final with Lyon. The Amaranto were in the drop zone and desperate, especially as Emerson, Ibrahima Mbaye and Andrea Luci were sidelined. Paulinho was rested, as he is on a booking and couldn’t be risked for next week’s relegation dogfight with Chievo.
Innocent Emeghara scored in last week’s 2-2 draw with Inter and his confidence was still high, as within two minutes he had forced Gigi Buffon to beat away a snapshot. The Swiss striker threatened again, running at Leonardo Bonucci to set up a Luca Siligardi effort wide.
Tevez responded, testing Francesco Bardi at the near post after good work from Fernando Llorente. Giorgio Chiellini wasted a great opportunity, blasting over from just inside the penalty area against his former club from a Paul Pogba assist.
Stephan Lichtsteiner prodded off target too and Ceccherini performed a crucial sliding tackle on Kwadwo Asamoah in the box.
The pressure finally paid off on 32 minutes when Llorente gathered from Tevez with his back to goal, spun round his marker and smashed it into the near top corner.
Pogba’s screamer was charged down and from the resulting Andrea Pirlo corner Llorente was allowed a free header, which Bardi did not deal with at all well. It appeared to be straight at him and the goalkeeper fumbled it over the line. It was the Spaniard’s seventh headed goal of the season, more than any other Serie A player.
Lichtsteiner ran on to a slide-rule pass down the right and tried to roll across for Tevez, crucially intercepted by Bardi. Just before the break, Emeghara caused a scare when he skipped past two players down the left and hesitated, allowing the block for a corner.
Moments later, Juve went on the counter-attack and Tevez curled just off target. After the restart, Llorente turned Valentini to hit the side-netting from a tight angle.
Livorno came back from 2-0 down to hold Inter last week and gave Buffon a scare with an Alfred Duncan blockbuster from distance, but the veteran goalkeeper flew for a one-handed save at the near top corner.
The second half was entirely comfortable for the Bianconeri, who controlled their two-goal lead and allowed Livorno precious few opportunities. With the final kick of the game, Claudio Marchisio went down just inside the box, but the referee whistled for full time.