Juventus can’t afford to give Cristiano Ronaldo a rest. Massimiliano Allegri was forced to bring on Ronaldo for the final 25 minutes, while Juventus was trailing and down to 10 men. The Portugal superstar leveled but did not have time to completely rescue Juventus as it was held at Atalanta to 2-2 on Wednesday.
It was only the second time this season that Juventus has dropped points in Serie A, but it ended up extending its advantage to nine points ahead of second-placed Napoli after Carlo Ancelotti’s side lost at Inter Milan 1-0 in dramatic fashion. “All considered it’s a good point against a good team,” Allegri said. “We were good in not going out of the match when we went down to 10 men.”
The Bianconeri, as winter champions with two rounds to spare, took the opportunity to rest Ronaldo and some others. And it seemed as if that would not affect Juventus as it took the lead after less than two minutes when Atalanta defender Berat Djimsiti turned Alex Sandro’s innocuous-looking cross into his own net.
But Atalanta shook off that and leveled in the 24th. Duvan Zapata gathered a Papu Gomez throughball, turned Leonardo Bonucci and scored in a fifth successive Serie A match. Matters started to go wrong for Juventus eight minutes into the second half when Rodrigo Bentancur was sent off following a second yellow card.
It took Atalanta just three minutes to exploit the numerical advantage as Zapata headed in a corner. Allegri sent on Ronaldo in the 65th and he leveled 13 minutes later, heading in from point-blank range after Giorgio Chiellini flicked on a corner. Juventus also thought it got a stoppage-time winner but Bonucci’s goal was ruled out for offside.
COSTLY SENDING OFF
Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly cost his side dearly as he was needlessly sent off and Inter scored a stoppage-time winner to close the gap to its opponent. Napoli played the final 10 minutes a man short after Koulibaly received two yellow cards in quick succession, the second for sarcastically applauding the referee after being shown the first.
But Ancelotti excused his player, saying the Senegal international lost his cool after monkey noises were made at him all night throughout the game. “We asked three times for the match to be halted because of racist chants,” Ancelotti said. “Announcements were made but the match continued. Next time we’ll stop the match by leaving the pitch, even if that means maybe forfeiting the match.
“Koulibaly was agitated and nervous, which is normal. It’s not good for us and it’s not good for Italian football.” Koulibaly posted on Twitter of his pride of being born in France to Senegalese parents.
“I’m sorry about the defeat and especially to have left my brothers! But I am proud of the color of my skin. Of being French, Senegalese, Neapolitan: a man,” he wrote. Lautaro Martinez fired Keita Balde Diao’s cross into the bottom left corner to spark wild scenes at San Siro. Third-placed Inter moved to within five points of Napoli.
Koulibaly earlier made a decisive goal-line clearance to deny Inter captain Mauro Icardi, who also hit the crossbar straight from kickoff. Napoli ended the match with nine men after Lorenzo Insigne was also sent off following an off-the-ball incident with Keita.
FIGHT FOR FOURTH
At the age of 35, Fabio Quagliarella is almost singlehandedly propelling Sampdoria into a Champions League qualifying berth. Quagliarella was on target again _ for the eighth successive Serie A match _ with a stunning backheeled goal to help his side beat bottom club Chievo Verona 2-0. Meanwhile, Lazio moved into fourth and the last Champions League spot with a 2-0 win at Bologna, which is managed by Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi’s brother, Filippo.
Sampdoria was fifth, while AC Milan slipped to sixth, putting coach Gennaro Gattuso under more pressure after drawing at relegation-threatened Frosinone 0-0. It extended Milan’s winless streak to five in all competitions. The Rossoneri also haven’t scored in four successive Serie A matches.
Teenage midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo scored a sensational solo goal as Roma beat Sassuolo 3-1. Parma won at 10-man Fiorentina 1-0, and Cagliari beat fellow struggler Genoa 1-0. Another relegation battle between Spal and Udinese finished 0-0. Torino beat Empoli 3-0.