Chievo draw dents Juve hopes
Juventus threw away a 2-0 lead and drew at home to Chievo tonight to leave their hopes of finishing in the Serie A top four hanging by a thread.
Alessandro Del Piero put the Turin giants in front at the Olympic stadium after converting from the penalty spot in the 12th minute. He then set up Alessandro Matri for Juve's second shortly after the restart. Substitute Fernando Uribe reduced the deficit in the 68th minute before Gennaro Sardo levelled matters two minutes later.
Juve pair Giorgio Chiellini and substitute Luca Toni were denied by the post in the final stages of the game as Chievo held on for a vital point. The draw assured Chievo of Serie A football next season while Juve are five points behind fourth-placed Udinese with two rounds to go. The top four teams in Serie A qualify for the UEFA Champions League.
Juventus coach Luigi Del Neri said his side had suffered a momentary blackout when they conceded the two goals in just over a minute. "We have paid a high price for a minute's madness, there was a blackout," said Del Neri.
"The boys played a good match, but were hit hard by the very rapid counterattacks of Chievo: such as the two occasions we conceded goals. Luck really wasn't with us, those shots that hit the post, or just the other side."
Del Neri was philosophical about his chances of seeing out the year left on his contract. "I still have my pride, so I will do everything to my best abilities till the end of the season. Then the club will decide."
Veteran Del Piero, who signed a one-year contract extension with the Bianconeri outfit last week, was quick to repay Juve's faith by putting the hosts ahead early on. Sardo grabbed Simone Pepe inside the area and the referee pointed to the spot. The Juve captain made no mistake and fired towards the top right corner out of Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino's reach.
Midway through the first half, Alberto Aquilani missed a great chance to double his team's lead when he hit Marco Motta's cross over the bar from close range. At the other end, Bojan Jokic could have equalised but his effort from 10 yards was kept out by Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon..
Juve picked up the pace in the second half and made it 2-0 in the 55th minute. Del Piero fed Matri inside the area and his right-footed strike from the heart of the area beat Sorrentino. Chievo almost conceded a third when Milos Krasic headed from Matri's cross just inches wide of the far post.
But the visitors hit back after the hour mark. Sardo's effort rebounded off the near post and Uribe fired from close range past Buffon. Shortly after, Sardo's bullet strike from outside the area beat Buffon after Pellissier's effort had hit the frame of the goal.