Serie A: Morata goal helps Juve's top four push

In a game where both sides struggled for rhythm, Juve looked nervy at times but coach Massimilano Allegri praised his side's grit by winning ugly.

Alvaro Morata

Juventus' Alvaro Morata celebrates after scoring the winner.   -  Reuters

A first-half goal from Alvaro Morata was enough to give Juventus a narrow 1-0 victory at home to Spezia in Serie A on Sunday as it tightened its grip on a Champions League spot.

In a game where both sides struggled for rhythm, Juve looked nervy at times but coach Massimilano Allegri praised his side's grit by winning ugly.

“We needed to have scored a second in the first-half. After the break, we were tired. We came from intense matches and I couldn't make changes," Allegri told DAZN.

"But in order to reach our objectives, this team needs to win ugly and suffer and that's what we did.”

The host, which went close on the quarter-hour mark through midfielder Arthur Melo, took the lead after 21 minutes when the Brazilian latched on to a poor clearance from Spezia goalkeeper Ivan Provedel, picking out Manuel Locatelli on the edge of the box before the Italian fed Morata, who netted his first league goal since December.

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Emmanuel Gyasi and Kevin Agudelo were both denied by Wojciech Szczesny from close range after the break as Spezia sought a way back into things.

Morata, meanwhile, missed a gilt-edged chance to seal the victory in stoppage time at the end of the game as Juventus held on to secure the win.

Juve moves onto 53 points in the fourth and final Champions League spot, where it sits six points above fifth-placed Atalanta, which has a game in hand.

Defeat is a fourth-consecutive for Thiago Motta's side, which is 16th - four points and two places above Venezia in the third and final relegation berth.

Earlier on Sunday, Venezia was thrashed 4-1 at home by Sassuolo in a game that saw four penalties awarded - three, all scored, to the visitor and one to Venezia, which missed.

Second-bottom Genoa drew its sixth consecutive game in Serie A, playing out a 0-0 at home against Empoli.

McKennie out of season

Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie will miss the rest of the club's season.

The 23-year-old from Fort Lewis, Washington, broke two bones in his left foot during a Champions League match at Spain’s Villarreal on February 22 when Pervis Estupinan made a two-leg, sweeping sliding tackle.

Juventus originally projected McKennie's recovery time at eight weeks.

“The season is over for Weston because of his injury,” coach Massimiliano Allegri said after Sunday's 1-0 win over Spezia. “He’ll be back next season.”

Juventus closes the Serie A season on May 21 at Fiorentina. The 2022-23 season starts the weekend of August 13-14.

McKennie will miss the United States’ final three World Cup qualifiers from March 24-30.

- AP

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