(Reuters) - Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba scored spectacular second-half goals to help titleholders Juventus beat Napoli 3-0 on Sunday, closing the gap on Serie A leaders AS Roma to one point and leaving their opponents trailing in third place.
Playmaker Pirlo fired a viciously dipping free kick over the Napoli wall from nearly 30 meters, then Pogba collected a pass, flicked the ball up and volleyed home from a similar distance beyond a bemused Pepe Reina six minutes later.
Roma, who won their first 10 games, were held to a second successive 1-1 draw after conceding a 94th minute equalizer at home to lowly Serie A newcomers Sassuolo.
Familiar routines continued at Fiorentina, where Giuseppe Rossi scored two more goals in a 2-1 win over troubled Sampdoria, and AC Milan, who remained in crisis mode after a goalless draw at bottom club Chievo.
Beset by their usual injury troubles and with boardroom disquiet reportedly brewing in the background, Milan fluffed several good chances as they extended their winless run to six games in all competitions.
Roma lead with 32 points from 12 games, with Juventus on 31 and Rafael Benitez’s Napoli on 28 after their second league defeat of the season.
Juventus made a flying start and Reina had already stopped one Pogba effort before Fernando Llorente turned in a deflected shot from close range after only two minutes.
Reina brilliantly stopped close range headers from Leonardo Bonucci and Llorente before halftime, although Napoli came back into the match after the break with Lorenzo Insigne always menacing.
Juventus settled the match in six stunning minutes, which began with Pirlo scoring from a typically majestic free kick before he was upstaged by Pogba, the player tipped to take over his mantle when the 34-year-old eventually retires.
“I was happy with my goal, but I‘m happier with the win,” Pirlo told Sky Sport Italia. “We tried to send a signal to those in front of us, to let them know we’re going to have a great season.”
Juventus finished with 10 men after defender Angelo Ogbonna was sent off for a second bookable offence late in the game
Roma took a 19th minute lead when Sassuolo’s Alessandro Longhi turned the ball into his own net as he attempted to clear after his goalkeeper Gianluca Pegolo had brilliantly saved Alessandro Florenzi’s shot.
They had further chances but were surprised by a late flourish from the Serie A debutants. There was a warning when goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis denied Antonio Floro Flores before Domenica Berardi fired the equalizer with almost the last kick of the game after a penalty area scramble.
Fifth-placed Fiorentina raced to a 2-0 lead in little more than a quarter of an hour against Sampdoria when Rossi, back after an injury nightmare that cost him two seasons of his career, converted a penalty and then curled in a stunning long-range effort.
But, having outclassed Sampdoria, they suffered an anxious finale after Manolo Gabbiadini pulled a goal back in the 74th minute.
Milan, who have won only three times in 12 Serie A games and are languishing in tenth place with 13 points, dominated table-propping Chievo and nearly snatched a win when Robinho hit the post with 10 minutes left and Kaka fired over from the rebound.
It could have been worse for the visitors as Chievo’s Marcelo Estigarribia had a shot tipped over by Christian Abbiati in the first half and Luca Rigoni shot into the side-netting when it seemed easier to score.
Milan had Riccardo Montolivo sent off for a second bookable offence in the 81st minute while Chievo striker Sergio Pellisier was also dismissed in stoppage time for dissent and had to be restrained by officials as he left the field.
There was last-minute drama at Atalanta where Marko Livaja’s goal in the 93rd minute gave the hosts a 2-1 win over Bologna, and Cagliari, where Daniele Conti scored two free kicks, the second after 88 minutes, in a 2-1 win over Torino.
Genoa continued their revival with a 2-0 win over Hellas Verona, their fourth win in six games since Gian Piero Gasperini took over for a second stint as coach after replacing Fabio Liverani.
Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Justin Palmer