ROME: Juventus clinched a record sixth straight Serie A title with a 3-0 win over relegation-threatened Crotone in the penultimate round yesterday. Mario Mandzukic gave Juventus the lead 12 minutes in by redirecting a cross from Juan Cuadrado, Paulo Dybala scored with a precise free kick shortly before the break and Alex Sandro added another with a header near the end.
Juventus moved four points clear of second-placed Roma, which last Sunday handed the Bianconeri their first Serie A loss since January. Since Serie A was founded in 1929, no club had previously won more than five straight titles. Torino won five consecutive titles from 1943-49 (including a season that was canceled due to World War II), Inter Milan took five straight from 2006-10 and Juventus claimed a handful from 1931-35.
“We’ve written one of the greatest pages in the book of football history,” said Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon, who also won the 2002 and 2003 Serie A titles with Juventus. “Winning is never easy,” Buffon added. “Beyond what people say, staying at the top is synonymous with sacrifice on everyone’s part. … If you want to always win matches, you’ve got to always have your head in focus and your legs prepared.” It’s the second title in five days for Juventus after a 2-0 win over Lazio in the Italian Cup final on Wednesday.
The Bianconeri has a chance to complete the treble with a victory over Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League final on June 3. Juventus also added to its record number of Serie A titles, with its 33rd. Players dumped shaving cream over the head of manager Massimiliano Allegri at the final whistle, then put on celebratory T-shirts with a ‘6’ on them.
Crotone remained third from the bottom, one point behind Empoli in the battle to avoid being the final club relegated. Empoli was beaten 1-0 at home by Atalanta, which got an early goal from Alejandro “Papu” Gomez. Genoa removed itself from the relegation chances with a 2-1 win over Torino, getting goals from Luca Rigoni and Giovanni Simeone – the son of Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone – before Adem Ljajic pulled one back for Torino. In the final round, Crotone hosts fourth-placed Lazio and Empoli visits already relegated Palermo. Last-placed Pescara, which has also already been relegated, hosts Palermo on Monday to conclude the penultimate round.
AC MILAN RETURNS TO EUROPE
AC Milan ended a run of three seasons without European play by beating Bologna 3-0 to secure sixth place and a spot in the Europa League playoffs. Gerard Deulofeu scored with a volley in the 69th, Keisuke Honda added a free kick four minutes later and Gianluca Lapadula redirected a cross from Mati Fernandez in added time. In other results, Sassuolo routed Cagliari 6-2 with goals from Francesco Magnanelli, Domenico Berardi, Matteo Politano, Stefano Sensi, Pietro Iemmello (penalty) and Alessandro Matri. Also, Udinese drew 1-1 with Sampdoria. – AP