MILAN — Title-winning teams often grind out results despite not playing well — and that is precisely what Juventus is doing.
Chievo Verona had won just one of its last six matches but Juventus struggled to break it down before eventually winning 2-1 on Sunday.
Juventus remained four points clear of second-placed Roma and five above AC Milan.
Miralem Pjanic had struggled to fit in since transferring from Roma in the off-season but he scored what was to prove the winner for Juventus in the 75th minute with a trademark free kick into the top right corner from just outside the area. Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino barely moved.
"I won the free kick and I put it in. I’m happy, but what’s important, above all, is the three points," Pjanic said. "I always do my utmost to fit in as best as possible, it’s obvious that I want to do more, but it’s a new system, it’s a different kind of football to where I was before, but I’m adapting.
"I’m not worried, I know that there are always great expectations in a great club, that doesn’t worry me, I’m staying calm, I do my work as best as possible. So slowly but surely I’ll get there, I’m a new footballer here, but I’m happy to be here."
Mario Mandzukic broke the deadlock in the 53rd, controlling Juan Cuadrado’s through ball before driving across into the bottom left corner.
Mandzukic almost scored a stunning goal in the first half, nodding on a long ball and flicking it over Nicolas Spolli before firing over the bar from six yards.
Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was making his 600th Serie A appearance, becoming only the fourth player to reach that mark after Paolo Maldini (647), Javier Zanetti (615) — who are both retired — and Roma captain Francesco Totti (607).
Buffon was decisive in the 64th to deny Lucas Castro from point-blank range, but could do nothing moments later as Sergio Pellissier converted a penalty after being tripped by Stephan Lichtsteiner.
There was more bad news on the injury front for Juventus, which is already without Giorgio Chiellini. Fellow defender Andrea Barzagli was stretchered off in the fifth minute with a dislocated shoulder.
PALERMO, 1 AC MILAN 2
It was the battle of the young goalkeepers in Sicily. Milan shotstopper Gianluigi Donnarumma is just 17, while Palermo counterpart Josip Posavec is 20.
Their combined age is less than that of Buffon, who is 38.
Posavec gifted Milan the lead in the 15th minute, colliding with his own defender as he came out to collect Mattia De Sciglio’s cross and losing the ball, allowing Suso to deposit the ball into an empty net.
Posavec made up for his error in the second half with three stunning saves to deny Suso each time but was beaten in the 82nd, when substitute Gianluca Lapadula cheekily backheeled Suso’s long-range attempt into the bottom corner.
It was the first Serie A goal for Lapadula, who had only been on the pitch three minutes.
Palermo had levelled in the 71st when Ilija Nestorovski ran onto Alessandro Diamanti’s through ball and drilled it into the near corner for his third goal in as many matches.
INTER MILAN 3, CROTONE 0
Problems continued for managerless Inter Milan on and off the pitch, with a win over Serie A’s bottom side in a hostile atmosphere at San Siro.
The scoreline was more generous than Inter deserved, with three goals in the final six minutes. Mauro Icardi netted twice, the first a penalty, after Ivan Perisic had fired the Nerazzurri in front.
It was only Inter’s fifth win this season and fans made their displeasure known with several insulting banners directed at the players as well as the club owners and directors.
The club released a statement on Sunday, saying it would announce the new coach in 48 hours. Youth coach Stefano Vecchi replaced the fired Frank de Boer on Tuesday on a temporary basis.
ROMA 3, BOLOGNA 0
After Icardi moved level with Edin Dzeko at the top of the scoring charts, all eyes were on the Roma forward to see if he would strike again.
Instead of Dzeko, it was Mohamed Salah who stole the headlines with his first hat trick in club football.
Roma went ahead in the 13th minute as Adam Masina attempted to clear Salah’s effort but only succeeded in prodding it past his own goalkeeper.
The league credited the goal to Salah and the former Chelsea midfielder went on to score a second-half brace, taking his tally to eight for the season — one behind Ciro Immobile and two below Dzeko and Icardi.
The only other time Salah has netted three in a match was in a World Cup qualifier for Egypt against Zimbabwe in 2013.
Empoli ended its goal drought in spectacular fashion, scoring double the number of goals it had netted all season, in a 4-0 win at fellow struggler Pescara.
Massimo Maccarone netted twice for Empoli, which hadn’t found the back of the net in the last eight rounds, and also provided the assist for Manuel Pucciarelli. Riccardo Saponara added a fourth in the final minute.
Atalanta won 3-0 at Sassuolo to continue its impressive run of form and move level on points with fourth-placed Lazio after a sixth win in seven matches.
Elsewhere, Fiorentina vs. Sampdoria and Genoa vs. Udinese both ended 1-1.