Milan (AFP) – Juventus’s hopes of winning a 10th consecutive Serie A title took another blow on Sunday with a 1-0 loss to lowly Benevento.
Argentine forward Adolfo Gaich scored the only goal after 69 minutes following a bad pass across the penalty area from Juventus midfielder Arthur.
Andrea Pirlo’s side stay third, 10 points behind Inter Milan whose match against Sassuolo was postponed because of a Covid outbreak at the league leaders.
It was the fourth league defeat for Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus, who have 11 games left to play this season, and another blow after their Champions League last-16 exit to Porto this month.
Ronaldo had scored a hat-trick last time out against Cagliari in the league, to bring his tally to a record 770 career goals in official matches.
And the 36-year-old was presented with a ‘GOAT’ jersey by club president Andrea Agnelli before kick-off for breaking Brazil legend Pele’s official record.
But the Serie A top scorer with 23 league goals this season drew a blank in the Allianz Stadium with Benevento goalkeeper Lorenzo Montipo pulling off a string of fine saves.
Ronaldo sent wide minutes into the game with Montipo denied Spaniard Alvaro Morata an opener after half an hour.
Ronaldo had the ball in the net before the break but was ruled offside.
Benevento broke through following a horrendous Arthur pass towards Danilo across the face of goal which fell short with Argentine Gaich pouncing for his second goal in five games since arriving on loan from CSKA Moscow.
Federico Chiesa had penalty appeals for a Daam Foulon challenge overruled amid protests from the entire Juventus team.
Montipo denied Ronaldo twice late on, first from close range with 10 minutes to go, and again on 90 minutes with Danilo then sending the rebound over.
After holding Juventus 1-1 in their last meeting, 16th-placed Benevento earned a previous three points in their fight against relegation.
Juventus are equal on points with Atalanta who bounced back after their Champions League exit to Real Madrid with a 2-0 win at Hellas Verona to consolidate fourth place.
Ruslan Malinovskyi scored the first from the penalty spot after a Federico Dimarco handball on 33 minutes in Verona.
Duvan Zapata added a second before the break, after an earlier effort hit the post, the Colombian sweeping the ball past Marco Silvestri into an empty net.
Ivan Juric’s Chievo had won the reverse fixture by the same scoreline in Bergamo back in November.
The Verona coach was serving a touchline ban this time and Gian Piero Gasperini surprised with a four-man defence instead of his preferred three.
Zapata spearheaded the Atalanta attack with Luis Muriel and Josip Ilicic both starting on the bench before coming on for the final quarter of an hour.
“There are many teams fighting for the Champions League. We’re the underdogs but we’ll battle to the end,” said Gasperini.
“We hope there won’t be any problems as happens during the international break and players return fit.”
Atalanta are five points ahead of both Napoli and Roma who face each other later on Sunday, while Verona fell to a third successive defeat to stay ninth.
Lazio also recovered from the Champions League elimination to Bayern Munich with a 1-0 win at Udinese thanks to an Adam Marusic goal seven minutes before the break.
The Romans are six points off fourth place and the elite European berths.
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