TURIN, Italy: Alvaro Morata came off the bench to earn then score a late penalty as champions Juventus went four points clear at the top of Serie A on Sunday (Monday in Manila) with a 2-0 win over hapless Inter Milan.
Days after rescuing their Champions League hopes with a 2-2 home draw with Bayern Munich, Juventus welcomed Roberto Mancini’s visitors looking to steal a march on title challengers Napoli.
After a dominant first half, the hosts broke the deadlock two minutes after the restart when Leonardo Bonucci fired Inter midfielder Danilo D’Ambrosio’s header past Samir Handanovic on the volley.
Morata replaced Juve striker Paulo Dybala with eight minutes remaining, and two minutes later stepped up to send Handanovic the wrong way after winning a penalty when he was chopped down in the box by Joao Miranda.
Juve’s 19th win of the season leaves Massimiliano Allegri’s men four points clear of Napoli, who will be hoping striker Gonzalo Higuain finds his scoring boots again for a difficult trip to fourth-placed Fiorentina on Monday.
Former Inter midfielder Hernanes, handed a rare start by Allegri after a sterling performance as a second-half substitute against Bayern in midweek, announced the hostilities after just five minutes.
Taking a pass from fellow Brazilian Alex Sandro, Hernanes sidestepped his marker to hit a sweet left-foot drive that sailed over Handanovic and cannoned off the crossbar.
It took until 25 minutes for Inter to get a sniff of goal, but Sandro produced a great saving header at the back post as D’Ambrosio waited to pounce and then Giorgio Chiellini made a timely interception on Mauro Icardi to thwart the Argentine striker.
Juve spurned two chances to break the deadlock on the stroke of half-time, Paul Pogba’s delivery across goal finding no takers and then Mandzukic narrowly missing the Frenchman’s inviting through ball that forced Handanovic out to parry.
The first half fizzled out, but the second started with a bang when, after just two minues, Bonucci broke the deadlock.
Dybala floated in a free-kick from the right that was met by D’Ambrosio, whose header towards the back post provided the perfect assist for Bonucci to smash into the roof of the net.
Juve’s fans were up in arms when Juan Jesus chopped Dybala down from behind.
Morata appeared to irk Miranda as they tussled for possession on the edge of the box, the Brazilian retaliating with a challenge that saw the referee point to the spot.
Morata made no mistake, sending Handanovic the wrong way to send a stadium delirious.