Juventus suffer 1-2 defeat to Fiorentina in Serie A

Florence (Italy), Jan 16 (IANS) Defending champions Juventus suffered a setback in their Serie A football title charge as they put up an uninspirung display during a 1-2 defeat to traditional rivals Fiorentina at the Stadio Artemio Franchi here.

Nikola Kalinic (37th minute) and Federico Chiesa (54th) on Sunday night helped hosts Fiorentina earn three points with the win over Juventus, whose sole goal was scored by Gonzalo Higuain.

With the loss, Juventus’ lead at the top has been reduced to one after Roma beat Udinese to move to 44 points from 20 games.

The Turin giants, however, have played a match less, while third-placed Napoli have 41 points from 20 matches.

The win helped Paulo Sousa-coached Fiorentina jump to the eighth spot with 30 points from 19 games.

Massimiliano Allegri-coached Juventus moved slowly and a hungry Fiorentina put pressure on them regularly.

Fiorentina began to impose themselves, with midfielder Matias Vecino and lively right winger Chiesa both testing Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon with menacing shots from inside the box. In the 10th minute, Uruguayan midfielder Vecino even struck the post as the hosts looked the better side, according to Juventus’ website.

Fiorentina’s attacking play paid off with a breakthrough goal in the 37th minute when right winger Federico Bernardeschi put a through ball into Kalinic’s path and the Croatian striker drove past Buffon from an acute angle.

Higuain had the chance to equalise for Juventus but his volley struck the thigh of Maxi Olivera.

The hosts continued their good work in the second half as well and doubled their lead as Chiesa got the slightest of touches on midfielder Milan Badelj’s lofted ball forwards, leaving Juve with a steep, uphill battle to get anything from the evening.

Just four minutes later, however, Higuain pulled one back for Juventus after poking home from close range into an open net.

The goal sparked a period of Bianconeri dominance, as they pushed purposefully for an equaliser with coach Allegri making two attack-minded substitutions with winger Marko Pjaca and striker Mario Mandzukic coming on for midfielder Stefano Sturaro and defender Andrea Barzagli respectively.

For all of their pressure around the final third, however, the visitors were unable to make the most of the opportunities they carved out, with Higuain and Chiellini unable to turn home as the ball bounced agonisingly close to the home goalline.

Then in the 89th minutes, Paulo Dybala spurned a golden chance to level the scores, firing over the bar from a fine position after strong hold up play from Mandzukic as they suffered the loss.

Following the defeat, Juventus coach Allegri credited Fiorentina, apart from ruing the missed chances. “We conceded when the match had fallen into a lull, then in the second half we had chances to equalise but you have to hand it to Fiorentina for the way they played,” he told his club’s website.

Fiorentina coach Sousa heaped praise on his side after the vital win. “When we play to the standard we did tonight — technically, tactically, physically and mentally — we’re much more likely to win football matches,” he told Fiorentina’s website.

“We’re not unbeatable, but if we keep this up our opponents will find it very tough going. If we can reproduce the attitude we saw tonight in every game and keep everyone fit and on top form, we’re more likely to keep winning.”