MILAN, Italy, Dec 22 – Juventus took advantage of Atalanta’s goalless draw at Genoa with a 2-0 win over Cagliari which inched them closer to Serie A’s Champions League places, as Salernitana’s trip to Udinese became the season’s first coronavirus-related casualty.
Moise Kean’s header five minutes before the break and Federico Bernardeschi’s precision finish after a break-away late on at the Allianz Stadium moved Juve to within four points of fourth place in Italy’s top flight, currently occupied by Atalanta.
A fourth win in five matches means Massimiliano Allegri’s side end 2021 on a high but it was another in a long line of underwhelming performances from the Old Lady of Italian football, who sit fifth nine points behind league leaders Inter Milan ahead of their home clash with Torino on Wednesday.
After the winter break they face a true test of their ambitions for the season, with matches against Napoli, Roma, AC Milan and Atalanta all coming by mid-February.
“If we get to the end of February with the same gap between us and the first four places as now I’ll be happy,” Allegri said to DAZN.
“You can’t win all your matches with your direct rivals so from then on they’ll have to play each other while we have a simpler calendar.
Juve were missing Paulo Dybala and Federico Chiesa in attack and rarely clicked going forward, while a troubled away side can wonder what might have been with better finishing.
Twice in the second half Cagliari, who are in the midst of a full-blown crisis after failing to muster a league win since mid-October, failed to put away gilt-edged chances following sloppy defending from the hosts.
Under-fire Cagliari coach Walter Mazzarri could hardly believe his eyes when, picked out completely alone on the hour mark by Raoul Bellanova’s perfect low cross, Dalbert somehow shanked wide with the goal at his mercy.
And eight minutes later Joao Pedro, just about the only bright sport for the Sardinian side this season with his nine Serie A goals, headed straight at Wojciech Szczesny from point-blank range.
Bernardeschi’s first goal in Serie A since July 2020 late on condemned second-from-bottom Cagliari to their third defeat on the bounce, although one that was less humiliating than the previous two 4-0 thumpings.
– Covid strikes Salernitana –
They are a point behind Genoa, who didn’t have a single shot on target as they held a curiously off-form Atalanta team now winless in three and sweating the fitness of striker Duvan Zapata after the Colombian limped off in the first half at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.
The biggest news of the day came earlier at Udinese, as the match with Salernitana officially went ahead despite health authorities in Salerno requesting the away side not leave for northeastern Italy.
The match was eventually abandoned 45 minutes after the official kick-off time of 1830 local time (1730 GMT), with the Udinese players remaining in the Dacia Arena’s dressing rooms knowing their opposition was not going to show up.
Before the game Udinese’s Pierpaolo Marino expressed annoyance at Salernitana not showing up due to two cases in the squad when just over a year ago his club had sent a team to Lazio despite having seven players and former coach Luca Gotti out with Covid infections.
However Salernitana sporting director Angelo Fabiani was unmoved, saying the club had organised a charter flight for those who had tested negative but were contacted by health authorities, who banned the whole team from travelling as they had to isolate as contact cases.
“If we’re banned by the authorities from travelling, what are we supposed to do?” Fabiani asked.
Salernitana now await the ruling from the football authorities regarding the result and whether the match will be rescheduled.
However the head of the Italian FA said on Tuesday that they will be kicked out of Serie A if a buyer for the club is not found by December 31, as they are owned by Lazio chief Claudio Lotito and ownership of multiple clubs in the same division is not allowed.