Morata strike sees Juve clear with win over hapless Inter

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Turin (Italy) (AFP)

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 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.

Inter remain in fifth place at 13 points behind Juve, but their seventh loss of the campaign has given hope to their direct rivals for the third and last Champions League qualifying spot.

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 also shook Inter, who were just as relieved to see Miranda block Paulo Dybala's drive after the Argentine had been set up by Mario Mandzukic moments later.

Juve were in command and soon after Mandzukic flashed an angled drive wide of the target after pouncing when Jeison Murillo failed to control Stephan Lichsteiner's cross-field delivery.

Dybala showed some great footwork to escape his marker and set up Lichsteiner on the right, but Handanovic was quickly down to collect Mandzukic's header.

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 almost doubled their lead minutes later, Dybala's first-timer from Sandro's cross on the left trickling past the right post.

Juve's fans were up in arms when Juan Jesus chopped Dybala down from behind, and it was similar indiscipline that led to Juve's second six minutes from time.

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 virtually packed stadium delirious.