Gonzalo Higuain celebrates a goal. Imago/PA Images
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Ronaldo absent but Juventus stay top of Serie A, Napoli held at Milan

Gonzalo Higuain grabbed a second-half brace to fire his side to victory.

GONZALO HIGUAIN grabbed a second-half brace to fire Juventus to a 3-1 win at Atalanta that kept the champions top of Serie A on Saturday, while Napoli extended their winless league run to five games with a lacklustre 1-1 draw at AC Milan.

Maurizio Sarri’s Juve left it late to seal victory in Bergamo after Robin Gosens had nodded Atalanta ahead after 56 minutes.

But Higuain hit back with two goals in eight minutes before Dybala marked his 200th Serie A appearance with the third goal one minute into injury time.

Juve open up a four-point lead on second-placed Inter Milan, who travel to Torino later on Saturday, as Atalanta drop to sixth place after their fourth league game without a win.

“We suffered, but in the final 20 minutes we gave everything we had to bring the win home,” said Sarri.

Cristiano Ronaldo missed the trip despite his four-goal spree for Portugal as he recovers from a knee problem ahead of Juve’s Champions League game against Atletico Madrid.

“I hope Cristiano will be back for the Champions League on Tuesday,” said Sarri.

“We’re solving this knee problem that has been bothering him for a while. Playing with a hint of pain will tire you out psychologically.

“So far he has trained in the right way, so as not to overload his knee.”

Higuain pulled Juventus level after 74 minutes with a ball that took a deflection off Rafael Toloi to beat Pierluigi Gollini in the Atalanta goal.

The Argentine completed his double when he picked up a cross from Juan Cuadrado, who had put his hand on the ball during a sliding tackle at the start of the move.

Then Dybala broke through the Atalanta defense to score his fourth Serie A goal this season.

“It was a great test of maturity in a difficult field, three fundamental points for the championship,” said Higuain. 

- Napoli struggle -

Atalanta had their chances, with Musa Barrow missing an early penalty as the Bergamo side chased their first Serie A win over Juventus since February 2001.

The 21-year-old Gambian rattled the crossbar after 17 minutes after a spot-kick was awarded for a Sami Khedira handball.

“Atalanta had perhaps their best performance this season and deserved to win, until that unlucky equaliser, then everything changed,” said Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini. 

“That was the turning point. In the end, the quality of Juve overturned the result”.

Atalanta lost out on some refereeing decisions including a disputed Emre Can handball, which did not result in a penalty.

“I saw the action again. There is so much confusion nowadays on handball,” said Gasperini. 

“The penalty we were awarded was the kind of challenge I’d have been furious to see given against me.

“The interpretations are completely different between players and referees. If there is no clarity, it becomes a lottery.”

Meanwhile the pressure is mounting on Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti ahead of his side’s Champions League trip to Liverpool midweek following their disappointing performance at the San Siro.

Serie A runners-up for the past two seasons, Napoli sit are seventh, 15 points behind Juve after 13 games and the stalemate is a poor result for a team that had title ambitions in the summer.

Milan are struggling in 13th position with just one point from their last three games.

Napoli’s Hirving Lozano got his head to a rebound after Lorenzo Insigne rattled the post after 24 minutes.

But five minutes later Giacomo Bonaventura blasted in the equaliser to confirm his return from injury with his first goal in over a year.

© – AFP, 2019

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