Serie A: Dybala’s hat trick sends Juve 7 points clear in title race

Mario Taddeo/ANSA via AP
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ROME (AP) Serie A leader Juventus overcame a series of defensive lapses to beat last-place Benevento 4-2 and move seven points clear on Saturday.

Cheick Diabate scored twice for Benevento before Paulo Dybala converted the second of his two penalties in the 74th minute to finally put Juventus ahead for good and complete a hat trick.

Coming off a debilitating 3-0 loss at home to Real Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinals, and ahead of next week’s second leg, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri rested several regular starters.

The two goals Juventus conceded matched the number the Bianconeri allowed over their previous 17 Serie A games.

“We’ve got to reorganize ourselves and improve, because right now we’re conceding too many shots,” Allegri said. “But moments like these happen over the course of a season, otherwise we would never allow any goals.”

Dybala opened the scoring with a shot from the edge of the area into the far corner midway through the first half.

Diabete, a Mali forward, notched his first from close range after he was left unmarked following a rebound off goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who played in place of Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon.

Just before the break, the VAR awarded Juventus a penalty that Dybala converted for contact between Berat Djimsiti and Miralem Pjanic.

Diabate rose above defender Medhi Benatia to head in another equalizer in the 51st for his fifth goal in four matches since arriving on loan from Turkish club Osmanlispor.

Ten minutes after he was sent on, Gonzalo Higuain earned a penalty and Dybala again was perfect from the spot, giving him a personal-best 21 goals in the league.

Douglas Costa, another substitute, sealed the victory with a long-range goal in the 82nd.

“I’m happy for the goals because these haven’t been easy days,” Dybala said. “We won a complicated match and played well.”

Dybala had two penalties saved earlier this season.

“Missing them happens. Goalkeepers train at stopping them,” Dybala said.

Dybala was optimistic for Wednesday’s second leg in Madrid.

“We believe in our Champions League chances. My teammates are men that never give up,” Dybala said. “We’re convinced we can get the result, otherwise we wouldn’t even go.”