MILAN (Reuters) - Juventus fell behind to a first-half penalty before scoring three times after the break to beat Bologna 3-1 on Saturday and close in on their seventh successive Serie A title.
The Turin side capitalised on dreadful defending by the visitors as they moved seven points clear at the top and will clinch the title without playing on Sunday in the unlikely event that challengers Napoli lose at home to Torino.
Otherwise, they would need three more points from their last two games which include a home match against a Verona side who were relegated earlier on Saturday in a 4-1 defeat at AC Milan.
“Nothing is decided yet but this was definitely a big step in the right direction. We still need three points to be mathematically sure,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri.
“We made life difficult for ourselves with that mix-up in the penalty area but, fortunately, we reacted well.”
Bologna, comfortably sitting in midtable, took a shock lead in an incident which raised more questions about the use of the video assistant referee (VAR) which is being trialled in Serie A and other domestic leagues this season.
Lorenzo Crisetig was pushed over by Daniele Rugani as he intercepted a weak pass out of goal by Gianluigi Buffon and the referee pointed to the spot amid Juventus protests.
Simone Verdi stepped up for the penalty but had to wait for three minutes as the referee checked the incident with VAR officials.
There appeared to a communication problem as the referee went over to look at the pitchside monitor himself before confirming the decision. Verdi kept his cool and virtually rolled the ball into the goal as Buffon went the wrong way.
Juve were gifted an equaliser seven minutes into the second half when Bologna’s Sebastien de Maio turned Juan Cuadrado’s cross into his own goal.
Emil Krafth hit the post for Bologna but the visitors were sunk by more bad defending.
Sami Khedira headed Juve in front after goalkeeper Antonio Mirante flapped half-heartedly at a long looping Douglas Costa cross from the left and Paulo Dybala swept in the third from another Costa cross after the Brazilian won an aerial battle with Vasilis Torosidis far too easily.
“We had the chance to go back in front when it was 1-1 but we were imprecise, and that is the difference between ourselves and our opponents,” said Bologna coach Roberto Donadoni. “It’s a lesson for the future.”
Hakan Calhanoglu, Patrick Cutrone, Ignazio Abate and Fabio Borini shared the goals as Milan comfortably dispatched Verona in the early match at San Siro while Lee Seung-woo scored a consolation for the visitors.
Verona were left seven points adrift of safety with two matches to play and went straight back down after being promoted last season.
Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne, editing by Pritha Sarkar