Juventus will not be caught at the top of the Serie A table this weekend after first-half goals from Mirko Vucinic and Alessandro Matri sealed a comfortable win over Fiorentina. The Bianconeri knew that failure to condemn Fiorentina to a third straight away defeat would leave the door open for Napoli to close a three-point gap with any points earned at Lazio.
Juve coach Antonio Conte had played down talk of a fierce rivalry between Turin and Florence and there was precious little evidence of competition on the pitch as Vucinic was left unchallenged to slam home the opener. Matri lost his boot when swinging at Arturo Vidal's canny pass but his socked foot guaranteed Juve all three points before what turned out to be an insipid second half.
Andrea Pirlo was back to his imperious best tonight, with a series of deft balls forward to Vidal and Claudio Marchisio inspiring gasps from the bumper crowd. Juve's first shot on goal came through Marchisio, who dribbled to the edge of the area before directing an effort just wide, before Emiliano Viviano was called into action.
With Vucinic free to do as he pleased at the end of an attractive passing move, the Montenegrin rifled the ball against Fiorentina's goalkeeper. Vucinic's compatriot Stevan Jovetic soon warmed Gianluigi Buffon's palms on the turn but it would be Juve who made the breakthrough.
With 20 minutes played, Vucinic unleashed a furious right-footed drive that streaked past a stranded Viviano and into the net. A chance for a quickfire second went begging when Vucinic failed to tuck the ball away when Gonzalo Rodriguez offered it to him on a plate at the edge of his area
Matri scores to seal three points
Juve would give themselves a significant advantage going into the break, though, as Matri stole onto a Vidal pass to steer the ball past Viviano. Replays showed the former Cagliari man's boot had flown off before he scored with his sock.
Pirlo went close himself when play resumed, just before Marchisio and Federico Peluso picked up the bookings that will keep them out of next week's trip to Roma. It was then time for Sebastian Giovinco to make an entrance when Vucinic called to be replaced after crashing to the ground and hurting his knee. Matri shrugged off the lull in action to burst onto a Stephan Lichtsteiner pass and drag the ball just wide of a post.
Fiorentina substitute Mounir El Hamdaoui got Buffon working again when he twisted and turned to beat Peluso and Giovinco promptly drew a low save from Viviano at the other end. But after the high-tempo escapades of the first 45 minutes, the second half was a limp affair and not even Paul Pogba could liven things up with one of his trademark long-range screamers. The Frenchman looked up and shaped himself to shoot but opted instead to pass sideways to Marchisio, who could not quite dig out one last meaningful effort on the half-volley.
In the other Serie A match-up on the day, Argentine defender Hugo Campagnaro scored a superb late volley against Lazio to save Napoli's blushes in a 1-1 draw. Lazio flew out the blocks and kept the pace high in search of an early goal, and were rewarded when Sergio Floccari chested down Abdoulay Konko's inch-perfect cross to rifle a volley past a rooted Morgan De Sanctis.
Napoli thought they finally had the ball in the net on 39 minutes, but Edinson Cavani's superb bullet header from Juan Zuniga's deep cross did not cross the line when it rebounded off the Lazio crossbar. Lazio began with a flourish after the restart and Floccari again had the ball in the net, only to be ruled offside after he nodded home Andre Dias's shot from close range.
Napoli were growing increasingly frustrated as they fought for an equaliser in the face of a disciplined and alert Lazio defence. However, Lazio continued to dominate and spurned the chance to double their lead when Bosnian defender Senad Lulic lobbed the onrushing De Sanctis only for Campagnaro to rush back and clear the danger.
After Pandev's looping header from the edge of the area was collected easily by Marchetti, Napoli looked to have run out of steam. But from a corner on the right, unmarked Campagnaro rose to smash a superb volley past the rooted Lazio goalkeeper from less than ten yards out to pull Napoli level.