Juventus Nears Title While Parma Falters

ROME -- Halftime substitutes Zinedine Zidane and Christian Vieri scored three minutes apart, sending Juventus of Turin past Piacenza 4-1 to open up a six-point lead atop Serie A with three games left.


Juventus can clinch its second Italian league title in three years by beating second-place AC Parma in their scheduled head-to-head clash Sunday at Turin.


Parma, which trailed by four points heading into Thursday's slate of games, drew 1-1 with AC Milan and saw hopes for its first championship fade.


Meanwhile, Inter Milan crept closer to Parma, beating relegation-assured Reggiana 3-1 as English midfielder Paul Ince scored twice.


Juventus has 62 points, Parma 56 and Inter 54. The second place finisher will be awarded a berth in next season's Champions League.


Lazio of Rome is fourth with 50 points -- in prime position for a UEFA Cup berth -- after beating Napoli 3-2. The season's surprise, Udinese, defeated next-to-last Verona 3-0 and is another two points back.


At the end of the standings, Cagliari pulled even with Piacenza for 14th place in the 18-team league -- the last spot out of the relegation zone -- with a 4-1 victory over Fiorentina.


At Turin, Juventus (17-11-3), which had scored just three goals in its prior four games, had trouble breaking down the tight Piacenza defense for the first 45 minutes.


But coach Marcello Lippi sent midfielder Zidane and Vieri on for Alessandro Del Piero and Croatian Alen Boksic at the start of the second half.


The move immediately paid off.


Zidane hit his fifth goal of the season in the 51st minute, and Vieri made it 2-0 in the 54th. Piacenza striker Pasquale Luiso cut the deficit with his 12th goal in the 56th, and the provincial club pressed forward in an attempt to equalize.


But Yugoslav midfielder Vladimir Jugovic's splendid 25-meter free kick in the 76th minute effectively sealed victory for the host, and Vieri added his second goal of the game with one minute left.


Juventus hit the crossbar twice in the first half. French midfielder Didier Deschamps found the wood with a lobbed shot in the 15th minute, while defender Mark Iuliano's header was too high in the 35th.


Piacenza (6-15-10) adopted a defensive stance at the outset, content to remain mostly on its side of the field. Defender Paolo Tramezzani did threaten to score when Juventus allowed him to weave toward the goal, unchallenged for 35 meters. Tramezzani brought Juve's Angelo Peruzzi off his line, but sent a harmless shot right at the keeper.


(For other results, see Scorecard.)