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Juventus close gap as Napoli, Inter held

Milan (AFP) – Juventus closed the gap at the top of Serie A with a 2-1 win over bottom club Benevento on Sunday as leaders Napoli were held by Chievo and Inter Milan drew 1-1 against Torino.

Amato Ciciretti’s first-half opener for Benevento stunned Juventus before Gonzalo Higuain and Juan Cuadrado scored after the break to seal three points for the six-time defending champions.

Napoli drew 0-0 in Verona and have 32 points from 12 games, one point ahead of Juventus who move ahead of Inter, now another point back in third.

Despite their battling performance, newcomers Benevento, nicknamed ‘Le Streghe’ (The Witches), have now lost their first 12 games of the campaign, matching the worst start to a season in any of Europe’s big five leagues set by Manchester United in 1930.

“It seemed like a cursed game, but we needed to be calm, sharp and not too hasty,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Benevento looked determined to gatecrash Juve’s 120th anniversary celebrations this week when Ciciretti struck from a free-kick that left Wojciech Szczesny helpless — the first time this season that a team have opened the scoring against the champions.

Higuain got the equaliser after 57 minutes when he met Blaise Matuidi’s knockdown with a volley into the top corner, and Cuadrado sealed the victory with a 66th-minute header.

“These games are always complicated,” continued Allegri. “Winning games is never easy or to be taken for granted.”

Napoli — after falling 4-2 to Manchester City in the Champions League in midweek — dropped two points at Chievo, and Inter had to come from behind to draw with Torino.

Inter remain clear of fourth-placed Lazio, however, after the capital club had their match against Udinese in Rome called off at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday afternoon because of heavy rain.

Meanwhile, Roma — fresh from their midweek 3-0 Champions League rout of Chelsea — are fifth with a game in hand after a thrilling 4-2 win over Fiorentina in Tuscany, with Brazilian Gerson scoring a first-half brace.

Gerson opened the scoring after just five minutes and added a second at the Stadio Artemio Franchi on the half-hour mark after Jordan Veretout had equalised.

Giovanni Simeone pulled Fiorentina level at 2-2, but Kostas Manolas scored five minutes after the break and Diego Perotti sealed victory for Roma three minutes from time.

– ‘Bitter taste’ –

Earlier Inter fought back after Iago Falque put Torino ahead on 59 minutes, with Eder coming off the bench to snatch a point 11 minutes from time after a neat touch from captain Mauro Icardi.

But the hosts missed a golden opportunity for the winner at San Siro when a powerful Matias Vecino effort late in the match rattled the crossbar.

Inter coach Luciano Spalletti praised his team for getting themselves back on level terms but admitted his frustration at dropping two points.

“The draw leaves something of a bitter taste in the mouth, we made some mistakes where we usually manage things in a different way,” he said.

“We had an opponent on our level in front of us, a team of substance.”

Torino moved provisionally up to seventh with 17 points from 12 games.

Seven-time European champions AC Milan, in the midst of a poor run of form in Serie A and sitting ninth, will be looking for some relief later when they go to struggling Sassuolo in a game which could be decisive for coach Vincenzo Montella’s future.

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