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Juve's title hopes slim after 1-0 loss to Benevento

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Rome, March 22 (IANS) Juventus’s hopes of winning the Serie A title took a major hit after a morale-sapping 1-0 home defeat to Benevento, as Arthur Melo’s howler allowed the newly-promoted side to leave Allianz Stadium with all three points.

It was the second time that Juve dropped points against Filippo Inzaghi’s side this season, after they played out a 1-1 draw earlier in the season, Xinhua news agency reported.

With Paulo Dybala, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Sandro injured, Federico Bernardeschi started at left-back, while Cristiano Ronaldo partnered Alvaro Morata upfront during the game on Sunday.

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Juve dominated possession from the beginning but failed to break down a compact Benevento defense, with an effort from Ronaldo chalked off after the Portuguese had wandered offside in the build-up.

The away side took a shock lead in the 69th minute as Arthur’s weak square-pass in his own half was intercepted by Adolfo Gaich who drilled home from the edge of the box.

Juve poured forward after that as Ronaldo earned several chances including a stunning bicycle-kick, but the Bianconeri was still unable to turn the game around.

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Juve may see its hopes of a 10th consecutive Serie A title slip away, as it dropped to fourth place, 10 points behind leaders Inter Milan, whose home fixture against Sassuolo was postponed due to Covid-19 concerns.

AC Milan bounced back from its Europa League exit with an entertaining 3-2 away victory to Fiorentina.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave the Rossoneri an early lead in the ninth minute as the Swede sprung the offside trap to smash in a volley.

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The Viola scored the leveler with Erick Pulgar’s free-kick before veteran Franck Ribery turned the table in the 51st minute with a daisy-cutter.

Milan fought back minutes later as Simon Kjaer nodded Hakan Calhanoglu’s corner for Brahim Diaz to turn in at the back post while Calhanoglu sealed the win through a rapid counterattack in the 72nd minute.

The Diavolo now sits second with 59 points, temporarily cutting the gap to Inter to six points.

In a head-to-head battle for fifth place, a pair of strikes from Dries Mertens helped Napoli sink Roma 2-0, while another Rome-based team Lazio edged Udinese 1-0 thanks to Adam Marusic’s winner.

–IANS

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