MILAN (Reuters) - Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain again showed his killer instinct with two expertly-taken goals in a late 3-1 win at Torino after their less illustrious neighbours had scored first and dominated the Serie A game on Sunday.
Substitute Miralem Pjanic scored the third goal as the Italian champions opened up a seven-point lead over AS Roma and AC Milan, who clash in the capital on Monday.
Napoli’s Dries Mertens scored a hat-trick to lead the revitalised team to a 5-0 rout at leaky Cagliari, while bottom club Palermo slumped to their ninth league defeat in a row, losing 2-0 at home to Chievo.
Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic scored twice to earn a 2-0 win over Genoa, leaving Stefano Pioli’s side in eighth place.
The Croatian midfielder volleyed the ball in from a corner seven minutes before halftime and tapped home the second after a surging run by Joao Mario midway through the second period.
Torino, a respectable seventh under Sinisa Mihajlovic, made a bright start at home to Juve and went ahead after 16 minutes when Andrea Belotti headed in Daniele Baselli’s cross for his 11th goal of the season.
Juve were on the ropes but levelled 12 minutes later when Higuain collected Mario Mandzukic’s flicked pass in his stride and burst through the defence to place his shot past Joe Hart.
Torino had the better of the second half and Adem Ljajic could have put them back in front but his shot clipped the far post.
Juventus, though, have made a habit of grinding out results and they did it again with two goals in the final 10 minutes.
A long ball forward found Higuain and, although the Argentine was closely marked, he turned past Antonio Barreca and fired an unstoppable shot past Hart for his ninth league goal of the season.
Paulo Dybala set up the third with a run down the touchline and Hart did well to save shots by Higuain and Pjanic before the Bosnia midfielder scored at the third attempt.
”Even when Higuain doesn’t score, he provides a big contribution,“ said Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri. ”I know he lives for goals but that’s not the only reason he was signed.”
Mihajlovic told reporters: ”Juventus didn’t have a shot on goal during most of the second half but when you don’t take your chances against a team like that, you get punished.
“We were on level terms until the 83rd minute and we deserved more. I didn’t see a difference between them and us.”
Napoli’s Mertens broke the deadlock against Cagliari after 34 minutes with a shot on the turn before their inspirational captain Marek Hamsik turned in a rebound on the stroke of halftime after Lorenzo Insigne headed against the bar.
Midfielder Piotr Zielinski scored with a long-range shot six minutes after the break before Mertens completed a memorable afternoon in Sardinia by scoring twice in three minutes.
Napoli are fourth in the table with 31 points from 16 games while Cagliari are 14th but have shipped 37 goals, the worst defensive record in the league.
Surprise package Atalanta suffered a shock 3-1 defeat at home to Udinese while Bologna and Empoli played out a 0-0 draw.
Valter Birsa gave Chievo an early lead at Palermo and Sergio Pellissier wrapped up the points for the Flying Donkeys with his 100th Serie A goal early in the second half after he pounced on a dreadful back pass by Edoardo Goldaniga.
Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Clare Fallon and Ken Ferris