Super League entrant Juventus struggles again in Serie A

ROME (AP) — A loss at home to promoted Benevento. A draw with city rival Torino. Another defeat at Atalanta.

And now a 1-1 draw at relegation-threatened Fiorentina.

There’s been nothing “super” over the last six rounds from nine-time defending Serie A champion Juventus, which was one of the clubs leading the charge for the breakaway Super League.

In fact, it was almost laughable when hotly sought transfer target Dušan Vlahović put Fiorentina ahead with a softly struck “Panenka”-style penalty kick midway through the first half Sunday. Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny was left helpless on the ground as Vlahović’s effort sailed over him into the center of the goal.

It was the 17th goal this season for the 21-year-old Vlahović, who is being linked with a move to AC Milan.

“It was a terrible first half. We should have started in a different manner, because this was a fundamental game in the race for the Champions League places,” Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo said. “But we were too slow, our spacing was all wrong and we were always second to the ball.

“The second half was a bit better,” Pirlo added.

Halftime substitute Álvaro Morata equalized for Juventus 31 seconds after the break from the right flank. It appeared that the Spanish forward was attempting to cross but the ball surprised Fiorentina goalkeeper Bartłomiej Drągowski, who could only get a weak hand on it before it sailed into the far corner.

Cristiano Ronaldo had a chance for a possible winner but appeared to misjudge his effort to head in a cross from Dejan Kulusevski and completely missed the ball.

Juventus also struggled against Fiorentina in December, losing 3-0 at home.

The draw did little to boost Juve’s chances of securing a top-four position and a Champions League place.

Atalanta moved into second place with a 5-0 win over 10-man Bologna.

There are still four clubs vying for three spots: Atalanta (68 points), AC Milan (66), Juventus (66) and Napoli (63).

Milan and Napoli play their games on Monday.

“You learn with every game that goes by, but I am not happy considering the initial expectations and I don’t think the club is either,” said Pirlo, who is in his first season as a coach.

Ruslan Malinovskyi, Luis Muriel, Remo Freuler, Duvan Zapata and Aleksei Miranchuk scored for Atalanta.

TITLE RUN

Inter Milan moved a step closer to its first title in more than a decade with a 1-0 win over Hellas Verona.

The victory left the Nerazzurri 11 points clear of Atalanta with five rounds remaining.

Inter, which had drawn its previous two games, extended its unbeaten run to 17 matches.

Inter fullback Matteo Darmian took a through ball from Achraf Hakimi and scored with a low, angled shot in the 76th.

Having joined on loan from Parma in October, Darmian also scored a decisive goal earlier this month in a 1-0 win over Cagliari.

DISTRACTED ROMA

Cagliari climbed out of the relegation zone with a 3-2 win over Roma, which meets Manchester United in the Europa League semifinals on Thursday.

Roma, which is making the Europa League a priority, has won only one of its last seven games in Serie A.

Also, midtable Udinese won 4-2 at Benevento, which fell into the drop zone.

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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