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Leaders Juventus canter to 4-1 win over Palermo

Turin, Feb 18: Argentine forward Paulo Dybala fired a brace as Juventus eased past Palermo 4-1 to take a 10-point lead at the top of the Serie A football league at the Juventus Stadium here.

Dybala’s superb free-kick in the 40th minute and a late 89th-minute strike sealed win for the Turin giants, who were ahead by Claudio Marchisio’s first goal of the campaign in the 13th minute. Gonzalo Higuain too scored his 12th goal in 10 games in the 63rd minute.

Juventus got off to an electric start on a night centre-back Leordo Bonucci made his 300th appearance for the club and could have gone 1-0 up in the fifth minute but a Dybala free-kick bounced off the Palermo left post.

Eight minutes later, however, Massimiliano Allegri’s men found the lead as Marchisio pounced on a fumble from away goalkeeper Josip Posavec following a Dani Alves free-kick to ram home with his left foot.

The visitors were briefly galvanised and were perhaps unfortute not to immediately conjure up an equaliser. The home defence was penetrated twice down the flanks with first goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, himself making a landmark 443rd Juventus appearance, and then Kwadwo Asamoah both called into action to deny wideman Norbert Balogh from restoring parity, according to Juventus’ website.

Juventus later killed Palermo’s challenge in the 38th minute as former Palermo star Dybala curled in a breautiful free-kick over the wall to double the lead.

In the second half, Higuain latched onto Dybala’s precise through pass before dinking over Palermo goalkeeper Posavec to almost give a cosy evening 27 minutes from time.

With Palermo out for the count, there was even time for Dybala to double his tally for the evening moments before the end of normal time, rolling into the corner from his strike partner Higuain’s clever back-heel lay-off on the edge of the box.

Palermo pulled one back in the injury time with a header from Ilvalyo Chochev but the hosts walked away winners, pocketing three points that took their tally to 63 points — 10 more than second-placed Roma, who face Torino on Sunday.

“The lads played well. It was a dangerous fixture and these matches can prove crucial in the title race. Our focus dropped a touch at times during the first half after we took the lead. That, along with the goal we conceded, is something we have to avoid,” coach Allegri told Juventus website.

“Either way we had barely any hairy moments but, as I’ve said, this was anything but a gimme win. We played nice football in patches, although our ball possession was a little laboured in the first period.” IANS