Milan (AFP) – Paulo Dybala scored a hat-trick including two from the spot to extend Juventus’ lead at the top of Serie A with a 4-2 win at battling bottom club Benevento on Saturday.
The Turin giants moved a step closer to a seventh straight Italian title, four days before they travel to Real Madrid needing to overturn a 3-0 deficit to reach the Champions League semi-finals.
Juventus now lead second-placed Napoli, who travel to Chievo on Sunday, by seven points.
Malian forward Cheick Diabate scored a brace to pull Benevento back into the game twice but the promoted side fell to their 26th defeat in 31 games.
Dybala — who will miss to trip to Madrid after seeing red in the first leg — opened the scoring after quarter of an hour in Naples, and got the second just before the break when he slotted in a penalty awarded after consultation with the video assistant referee.
The 24-year-old completed his treble with a penalty awarded after 74 minutes when Gonzalo Higuain was brought down in the box, before Douglas Costa added the fourth eight minutes from time with a magnificent curling effort.
Argentine Dybala now has 25 goals in all competitions this season.
Juventus dominated early against a side who were 65 points below them before kick-off.
Mario Mandzukic threatened, getting his head to a Mario Pjanic chipped ball after five minutes but it flew wide.
– Dybala breaks through –
But Dybala broke through on 16 minutes when Juan Cuadrado knocked down the ball for the Argentine international to finish with a left-footed shot from the edge of the box.
But six minutes later Benevento were level after Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny saved a Filip Djuricic effort only for Diabate to tap in the rebound.
Mandzukic put the ball in the back of the Benevento net again after 36 minutes, finishing off a Cuadrado cross, but the goal was disallowed because of the Croatian forward’s handball in the build-up.
The champions went into half-time ahead through Dybala’s first penalty after Berat Djimsiti’s foul on Pjanic.
Five minutes after the break Benevento were back level as Diabate rose higher than defender Medhi Benatia to head home a corner.
It was the 29-year-old’s fifth goal in five games for the club since February.
But Dybala put Juventus back in front, before Costa sealed the three points with a searing left-footed shot high into the top corner.
Napoli will need a win at 14th-placed Chievo on Sunday after being held 1-1 at Sassuolo last weekend to keep their push for their first title since 1990 alive.
Roma, in third, host Fiorentina later Saturday before next Tuesday’s visit of Barcelona to the Stadio Olimpico, looking to stay ahead of Inter Milan, who are just a point behind in fourth.
Fiorentina are pushing for the Europa League spots as they sit four points adrift of sixth-placed AC Milan along with Atalanta and Sampdoria.