Ronaldo-less Juventus fail to clinch title against SPAL

Spal's Sergio Floccari (2-L) scores the 2-1 goal during the Italian Serie A soccer match against Juventus FC at the Paolo Mazza Stadium in Ferrara, Italy, April 13, 2019. EPA-EFE/ELISABETTA BARACCHI

FERRARA, ITA.– SPAL rallied from a 1-0 deficit to earn a 2-1 home win here Saturday over Juventus, who were playing without Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

The result postponed the visitors’ celebration of an eighth straight title, as they needed at least a draw to clinch yet another Serie A trophy.

Ronaldo, Leonardo Bonucci, Mario Mandzukic, and Miralem Pjanic all were rested ahead of the April 16 second leg of Juve’s Champions League quarter-final clash against Ajax (tied 1-1 after the opening leg).

The Italian-league giants grabbed a 1-0 lead at the intermission but conceded two goals after the break.

Coach Massimiliano Allegri’s team still have a whopping 20-point lead over Napoli, who could hand Juve the title if they fail to garner three points on the road on Sunday against bottom-dwelling Chievo.

Juventus started the game in the best possible way, taking the lead at the half-hour mark on the strength of a goal by Moise Kean, a 19-year-old Italian sensation who teamed up with Argentina’s Paulo Dybala on the front line.

Including his goal in Saturday’s game, Kean has found the back of the net in the last six contests he has taken part in, having also scored while on international duty against Finland and Liechtenstein, and then with Juve against Empoli, Cagliari and AC Milan.

Juventus, who also trotted out 17-year-old Paolo Gozzi and 21-year-old Grigoris Kastanos, lowered their intensity after the intermission and paid the price.

Kevin Bonifazi scored the equalizer in the 49th minute and then veteran Sergio Floccari notched what proved to be the game winner for the hosts in the 75th minute.

While SPAL was hungry for points as part of their push to avoid relegation, the visitors seemed to be focused more on the Ajax match scheduled for Tuesday at Juventus Stadium.

That was evident when Allegri inserted two other young players – Englishman Stephy Mavididi and 18-year-old Italian Hans Nicolussi – after conceding the equalizer.

Even if Napoli wins on Sunday, one point would be enough for Juventus to clinch their eighth consecutive title (35th overall) when they host Fiorentina, one of their historical rivals, on April 20.

For SPAL, Saturday’s win was crucial to their efforts to avoid relegation to Italy’s second division.

After picking up three points at Paolo Mazza Stadium, SPAL now are provisionally in 13th place with 35 points, seven points ahead of 18th-place Empoli with six games remaining in the season.

The teams in the No. 18, No. 19 and No. 20 spots at season’s end all will be relegated to Serie B.

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