Soccer — Italian LeagueMonday, March 31, 2014
Juventus lead cut after defeat
Suffers only its second loss of the season
Serie A leader Juventus suffered only its second league defeat of the season when it was beaten 2-0 at an inspired Napoli, which fights to reach second place and gain a spot in the Champions League.
ROME — Real Madrid castoff José María Callejón scored in the first half and Belgium international Dries Mertens added a late goal as Napoli handed Serie A leader Juventus only its second loss of the season with a 2-0 victory yesterday.
Still, Juventus has an 11-point lead over second-place Roma and is 17 points ahead of Napoli with seven rounds remaining.
In the 37th minute at the San Paolo stadium, Callejón beat Juve midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah to redirect a cross from Lorenzo Insigne from the edge of the box for his 12th goal since transferring from Madrid in the offseason. Mertens sealed the result after collecting a long pass from Goran Pandev in the 81st and muscling off Claudio Marchisio before beating goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon with a long bouncing shot.
Napoli is still hoping to edge Roma for second place and gain the last direct Champions League berth. “This is a very important win, because it keeps us close to Roma,” Insigne said. “We’re going to fight until the end.”
Juventus, which was without suspended Serie A scoring leader Carlos Tevez, struggled to create chances. The Turin power’s only other loss was a 4-2 defeat at Fiorentina in October.
Earlier, Mattia Destro’s early goal was key and Roma was fortunate when a penalty kick for relegation-threatened Sassuolo was waved off in a 2-0 win.
Roma faces Parma on Wednesday in the resumption of a match from February that was stopped after eight minutes due to a waterlogged pitch.
“No other squads will be playing,” Roma coach Rudi García said. “We’ve got to take advantage of that.”
Elsewhere yesterday, fourth-place Fiorentina was held to a 0-0 draw at Sampdoria.
Fiorentina winger Juan Vargas banged a free kick off the corner of the goal frame in the 78th and Sampdoria coach Sinisa Mihajlovic was sent off for protesting in the final minutes, grabbing an official’s arm as he walked off the pitch.
In Naples, only Buffon kept the hosts from scoring early on. The goalie stopped a close-range attempt from Callejón seven minutes in, Hamsik had a goal annulled for offside seconds later and Buffon tipped an attempt from Hamsik over the bar in the 10th.
Buffon also blocked a powerful effort from Callejón in the 29th then stopped a dangerous free kick from Algeria fullback Faouzi Ghoulam in the 58th.
Napoli was helped by vocal crowd support. “As always, the fans gave us a big hand,” Insigne said.