|Juventus’ Leonardo Bonucci (left) jubilates with his teammate Paulo Dybala after scoring the goal during the Italian Serie A match Udinese Calcio vs Juventus FC at Friuli stadium in Udine, Italy, on Sunday. — EPA Photo|
MILAN — Leonardo Bonucci’s second-half leveller saved Juventus’s blushes a day after Roma virtually conceded the title as the champions were held to their first Serie A draw in over a year at Udinese.
Juventus, aiming for a record sixth consecutive scudetto, were given a boost on Saturday when Roma’s 2-1 home defeat to Napoli gave the Turin giants the chance to pull 10 points clear.
But in a cagey performance at the Dacia Stadium, filled to the brim for the visit of the 32-times Italian champions, a stuttering Juve failed to capitalise, settling for their first draw of the campaign and their first in Serie A since drawing with Bologna in February 2016.
Massimiliano Allegri’s men remain top of the pile but are now eight points ahead of Roma, with Napoli third at 10 points off the pace.
"Before I say anything I have to compliment Udinese, who played a very solid game. At times they had two, three and even four players coming at our ball carriers," said Allegri.
"We knew how difficult a game this would be after so many victories. It’s been over a year since we’ve drawn.
"We made a lot of mistakes, especially in the first 20 minutes. On the plus side we gained a point on Roma but the championship is not over. Roma can still collect a lot of points."
Juventus were denied early penalty claims after Dani Alves’s cross appeared to come off the arm of Samir.
Referee Antonio Damato was unimpressed, and Juve suffered another blow minutes later when Duvan Zapata powered down the left, held off Bonucci and fired under the body of Gianluigi Buffon.
But the home fans’ hopes of seeing Udinese hold on for a famous win were dashed on the hour.
At a free kick Paulo Dybala fired an inviting back-post delivery and Bonucci got between Silvan Widmar and Stipe Perica to head past Orestis Karnezis.
Atalanta are fifth after seeing goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu perform heroics in a scoreless draw with Fiorentina in Bergamo.
That result was welcomed by rivals who are also hunting a place in Europe next season, notably Lazio and Inter Milan.
A classy 5-1 win at Cagliari inspired by two-goal Ivan Perisic saw Inter initially move up to fifth place.
But the Nerazzurri were back down to sixth after Ciro Immobile hit a brace for Lazio in a 2-0 win at Bologna, who were booed off the park in Sunday’s late game.
A week after being stunned 3-1 by Roma at the San Siro, Inter coach Stefano Pioli said he was buoyed by his side’s performance as they chase the dream of a top three finish and a return to the Champions League for the first time since 2012.
"I’ve been really pleased with how the lads have reacted after the defeat to Roma," said Pioli.
"We looked at the footage to learn from those mistakes. Today we controlled the game, although we have to know when to speed things up and when to slow them down."
Elsewhere, Italy striker Andrea Belotti hit a hat-trick to take his tally for the season to a league-leading 22 goals in Torino’s 3-1 home win over Palermo.
Relegation candidates Palermo saw Andrea Rispoli beat England’s Joe Hart from distance on the half hour.
But Belotti struck three times in the space of eight second-half minutes to hand Torino a 10th win of the campaign.
He now has a three-goal lead in the scoring charts on Roma’s Edin Dzeko and Higuain, both on 19, with Napoli’s Dries Mertens on 18 and Icardi on 17.
Belotti said: "It would be amazing to win the top scorer’s award." — AFP