REUTERS - Juventus made light work of bitter rivals Inter Milan on Sunday, winning 3-1 to increase their Serie A lead to nine points after AS Roma were washed out and Napoli blundered to a 3-0 defeat at Atalanta.
Stephan Lichtsteiner, Giorgio Chiellini and Arturo Vidal put Juventus three goals up in less than an hour against Inter, who have won only once in 10 games since Indonesian business tycoon Erick Thohir took over as president in November.
Second-placed Roma’s match at home to Parma was called off after only eight minutes when incessant heavy rain left the pitch water-logged.
German Denis took advantage of shocking defending to score twice for Atalanta in a 3-0 win over Rafael Benitez’s inconsistent Napoli who also gifted Maxi Moralez the other goal.
Third-placed Napoli have made a habit of dropping points against mid-table opposition and had drawn their previous two games.
Lazio won 2-0 at Chievo in their first match without Brazilian midfielder Hernanes, who joined Inter in the transfer window, and bottom club Catania came from behind three times to hold Livorno 3-3 after a six-goal second half.
Swiss midfielder Innocent Emeghara scored twice and Paulinho converted a penalty for Livorno while Argentine trio Gonzalo Bergessio, Pablo Barrientos and Sergio Almiron replied for the Sicilians in a match featuring two teams in the bottom three.
Sassuolo, also in the drop zone, gave new coach Alberto Malesani a losing start, going down 2-1 at home to Verona.
Juventus, who have won all 11 home games in Serie A this season, have 59 points and moved nine clear of Roma to stay firmly on course for a third successive title.
Napoli are a further six points behind Roma while Inter dropped to sixth, below promoted Verona.
Inter said their team bus was pelted with eggs and stones on the way to the Juventus stadium, cracking a window although causing no injuries.
“I prefer to think about the game,” coach Walter Mazzarri told a touchline reporter before kickoff.
Carlos Tevez had already forced a brilliant save from Samir Handanovic when Andrea Pirlo curled an exquisite ball over the Inter defence and Lichtsteiner scored with a diving header.
Chiellini scored from close range two minutes after the break and Chilean midfielder Vidal fired home a loose ball eight minutes later before Rolando made the score more respectable by pulling one back following a corner.
Inter striker Rodrigo Palacio missed two excellent chances which could have turned the game. The Argentine blasted high and wide when he had a clear run on goal in the first half and headed over the crossbar late in the game when a second Inter goal would have had tested Juve’s nerves.
Benitez surprisingly started with forwards Gonzalo Higuain and Marek Hamsik on the bench and the decision back-fired in a dismal first half in gloomy Bergamo, where home fans entertained themselves by repeatedly letting off smoke bombs behind the goal.
Atalanta went ahead two minutes after halftime when Blerim Dzemail gave the ball away and Denis scored with a low, powerful shot which was badly misjudged by Pepe Reina.
Higuain came on for Napoli and quickly forced Andrea Consigli to make his first save of the game just after the hour, only to see Atalanta score again almost immediately.
Napoli midfielder Gokhan Inler, on the edge of the penalty area, made a complete hash of a clearance which went straight to Denis who fired past Reina.
Moralez added the third in the 70th minute after Federico Fernandez slipped, allowing him to slot the ball past Reina.
Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Ed Osmond