CATANIA - Fabio Quagliarella struck twice to give Juventus a 3-1 win at mid-table Catania on Sunday and boost their hopes of emerging as AC Milan's main title challengers this season.
Juve crashed out of the Europa League on Wednesday after drawing 1-1 at Lech Poznan in arctic temperatures but the barmy Sicilian weather at Serie A's most southerly venue brought out the best in Luigi Del Neri's side.
The Turin club stayed third and are now just three points adrift of second-placed Lazio, who beat faltering champions Inter Milan 3-1 on Friday, and lie six points behind AC Milan after the leaders overpowered Brescia 3-0 on Saturday.
The travelling fans were kept behind netting at Catania's open-air Stadio Massimino, built in the shadow of the mighty Mount Etna volcano, despite the home end also containing many closet Juve fans given the popularity of Italy's most successful club in Sicily.
Those supporters were biting their lips on 35 minutes when Juve fans erupted with joy following Simone Pepe's controlled finish to open the scoring after Vincenzo Iaquinta had picked the winger out at the far post.
Catania hit back immediately, however, with Juve's defence failing to deal with a ball into the box and Japan striker Takayuki Morimoto scuffing his shot into the corner of the goal.
Quagliarella thought he had given Juve a new lead when his shot bounced down off the bar, but the linesman gave no signal despite replays suggesting the ball had crossed the line.
The Italy striker was finally on the scoresheet moments afterwards in the 44th minute with a good finish following more good work from Iaquinta and he grabbed his second after the break following a defensive mix-up.
Media reports say Juve are interested in Catania striker Maxi Lopez for the January transfer window and although the former Barcelona player showed some good touches, he drifted in and out of the game.
A Stefano Guberti brace and a Giampaolo Pazzini penalty earlier helped Sampdoria beat bottom side Bari 3-0 to move seventh and join Palermo, Inter and AS Roma on 23 points, 10 behind Milan.
Troubled striker Adrian Mutu, out for 10 months after a drugs ban and injury, grabbed his first goal of the campaign as Fiorentina beat Cagliari 1-0.
Serie A's veteran forwards were in fine form with Hernan Crespo bagging his second double in consecutive games to give Parma a 2-1 win over resurgent Udinese, for whom Antonio Di Natale, last season's league top scorer, struck his ninth goal of this campaign.
Marco Di Vaio hit his eighth goal of the season as Bologna, hit by a one point deduction in midweek because of financial problems, won 2-0 at struggling newcomers Cesena and Luca Toni equalised for Genoa in their 3-1 win at lowly Lecce.
Roma drew 2-2 at Chievo on Saturday and fourth-placed Napoli host fifth-placed Palermo on Monday.comments