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SPAL put Juve title celebrations on hold, Roma into top four

Milan (AFP) – Juventus slumped to a shock 2-1 defeat at lowly SPAL on Saturday to put their Serie A title celebrations on hold, as Edin Dzeko fired Roma into the Champions League places with the only goal in a 1-0 win over Udinese.

Massimiliano Allegri’s side had needed just a point to claim their eighth ‘Scudetto’ in a row with a record six games to spare, and they looked on track to seal the title when young gun Moise Kean stuck his foot out to direct a Joao Cancelo effort home after half an hour in Ferrara.

However Kevin Bonifazi and Sergio Floccari responded with two precious second-half goals which moved lowly SPAL seven points clear of the relegation zone.

“Making records is very difficult, it takes energy and there is also Europe to concentrate on,” said Allegri, who rested key players including Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League quarter final decider against Ajax in Turin.

“If we had put all our regulars in it would have been easier to win it, but there is also the goal to obtain on Tuesday.”

Juventus have a 20-point advantage on second-placed Napoli and can still seal the title in record time on Sunday if Carlo Ancelotti’s side fail to win at bottom club Chievo.

Otherwise, they could win their 35th Serie A championship next Saturday at home against Fiorentina.

That would match the previous best of winning the title with five games to spare achieved by Torino in 1947-1948, Fiorentina in 1955-1956 and Roberto Mancini’s Inter Milan in 2006-2007.

In heavy rain in Rome, Edin Dzeko scored his first home league goal in nearly a year to move Claudio Ranieri’s side up to fourth, the final Champions League berth.

Dzeko connected with a Stephan El Shaarawy cross to finish off from close range in the Stadio Olimpico, moving his team two points ahead of AC Milan, who can retake fourth place with a win over European rivals Lazio at the San Siro later on Saturday.

– ‘Paid for inexperience’ –

In Ferrara, Ronaldo was rested for the second time this season and the club fell to just their second defeat of the campaign.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner returned from a thigh injury during the week to score an away goal in the first leg of their tie with against Ajax, which ended 1-1 on Wednesday.

Defender Leonardo Bonucci was also rested along with Blaise Matuidi, Alex Sandro, Mario Mandzukic, and Miralem Pjanic, with forward Federico Bernardeschi coming off the bench late in the game.

Mattia Perin replaced Wojciech Szczesny in the Juventus goal with Kean getting his second start alongside Paulo Dybala up front.

“We paid a little for our inexperience,” said Allegri. 

“We played with a lot of youngsters. I regret this defeat because I think the match deserved more a draw than a loss.”

Kean broke the deadlock when he redirected a tame Cancelo drive, thrusting out his right boot to turn the ball beyond Emiliano Viviano.

The young Italy international became the youngest player to score in four consecutive Serie A matches, having scored six in as many games, and played in just eight this season.

But Bonifazi pulled SPAL level three minutes after the break when he  connected with a corner to head past Perin.

Former Arsenal forward Stephy Mavididi, 20, came on for Kean midway through the second half for his debut before Floccari fired in the winner after 74 minutes, prompting Allegri to send on Bernardeschi to try and salvage a point.

But SPAL held on to move up to 13th after a fine run of recent form that has seen them win four of their last five and beat Champions League-chasing Lazio and Roma and runaway leaders Juve.

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