Serie A: Cesena hold Juventus to keep Roma hopes alive

Serie A: Cesena hold Juventus to keep Roma hopes alive

Serie A strugglers Cesena kept the Italian title race ticking over after holding Juventus to a 2-2 draw on Sunday that left the champions seven points clear of title challengers Roma.

Juventus had the chance to go nine points clear of the Giallorossi after their latest slip-up, a scoreless draw at home to basement side Parma -- their fifth draw in six consecutive games.

But at the Dino Manuzzi stadium, which features an artificial surface, Massimiliano Allegri`s expensively-assembled side missed a late penalty and ultimately struggled against a Cesena side which has been fighting to get out of the relegation zone all season.

Roma remain in second place seven points adrift with a five-point lead on Napoli after their shock 3-1 loss at Palermo on Saturday.

Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri told Mediaset: "We gave them far too much space and too many counter-attacks. It was a hard game, but I knew it would be.

"We didn`t underestimate the task, but we`re disappointed at not pulling further ahead of Roma."

Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon suggested Roma`s earlier setback had allowed complacency to creep in.

"Maybe Roma`s result changed things a little, but a squad like ours shouldn`t be affected by results elsewhere," Buffon told Sky Sport.

"We just weren`t good enough, especially in the first 20 minutes when we gave away too many counter-attacks."

Fifth-placed Lazio, who won 1-0 at Udinese, had been shocked 2-1 at Cesena two weeks ago, and Buffon was under pressure from the early stages when Gregoire Defrel forced him to block his angled drive at the near post.

Cesena saw clear chances by Defrel and Ze Eduardo go amiss, while Fernando Llorente -- partnering Alvaro Morata up front in the absence of suspended Carlos Tevez -- saw a header go over.

The hosts` efforts finally paid off when a misplaced Andrea Pirlo pass in midfield sparked a counter which saw Defrel cross for Milan Djuric to sidefoot under Buffon on 17 minutes.

"It was great to test myself against the Juventus defence and to score against Buffon was pretty special," said Bosnian striker Djuric.

Juve were back on level terms on the half hour after Morata got his head to Pogba`s cross to beat Nicola Leali, and took the lead five minutes later when Claudio Marchisio pounced on a Llorente dummy to fire home from close range.

Cesena equalised when Franco Brienza beat Buffon with a low drive from inside the area after Djuric nodded down a cross.

Juventus should won it when Stefano Lucchini blocked Llorente`s overhead kick with his hand, but Arturo Vidal`s spot kick flew wide of Leali`s upright.

Roma had ended a run of four consecutive draws with a precious 2-1 win at Cagliari last week to close to within seven points of Juventus.

But after a thrilling encounter at the Stadio Olimpico, Rudi Garcia`s men were left lamenting a series of missed chances on what was Gervinho`s first game back since helping Ivory Coast to the Africa Cup of Nations title, alongside new clubmate Seydou Doumbia, who made his debut.

Ashley Cole, making a rare appearance in the absence of fellow left-back Jose Holebas, had two chances late on to seal the win, hitting the upright with the first before he volleyed over the bar in the final minute.

Garcia hit out at his players when he told Sky Sport: "If we have any ambitions, we should be winning and not having to settle for a result like this.

"We only hit the target with four of our 20 shots. We`re not going to score goals like that."

Genoa, meanwhile, continued to reap the rewards of signing M`Baye Niang on loan from AC Milan with the Frenchman hitting a brace in a 5-2 drubbing of Verona, as veteran Luca Toni hit a brace for the visitors.

Inter Milan claimed their second consecutive win, after last week`s 3-0 rout of Palermo, in a 4-1 drubbing of Atalanta as Fredy Guarin scored a brace.

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