MILAN - Champions Juventus were given an almighty scare by basement side Benevento before recovering to win 2-1 and hand the Serie A newcomers their 12th straight defeat of the season on Sunday.
Amato Ciciretti stunned the home fans with an exquisite free kick in the 19th minute and Benevento led for 38 minutes until Gonzalo Higuain and Juan Cuadrado turned the game around.
Benevento’s defeat meant they equalled the record for the longest losing streak at the start of the season in the top five European leagues, set by Manchester United in 1930/31.
Juve’s win closed the gap on Napoli to one point after the leaders were held 0-0 at Chievo, dropping points for only the second time this season, and moved the champions into second place above Inter Milan, who were held 1-1 at home by Torino.
AS Roma clocked up a 12th consecutive away win in the league by beating Fiorentina 4-2 while Lazio’s match at home to Udinese was postponed after heavy rain left the Stadio Olimpico pitch waterlogged.
In the evening game, big-spending AC Milan, with only one win in their previous seven games in all competitions, eased the pressure on coach Vincenzo Montella with a 2-0 win at struggling Sassuolo.
Napoli, who like Inter are unbeaten, have 32 points from 12 games, followed by Juventus (31), Inter (30), Lazio (28) and Roma (27).
Douglas Costa twice hit the woodwork for Juve early on before Ciciretti curled a free kick past Wojciech Szczesny to give Benevento a lead nobody had expected.
Juve kept pouring forward and missing chances until Higuain acrobatically hooked the ball past Alberto Brignoli in the 57th minute.
Nine minutes later, Brignoli misjudged Alex Sandro’s cross by staying on his line and Cuadrado crept in at the far post to score with a powerful downward header.
Juventus still had to survive nervous moments and Danilo Cataldi nearly grabbed an equaliser with a dipping long-range effort.
“It seemed like the game was jinxed, the ball did not want to go (in), but we managed to turn it around,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said.
“We risked conceding an equaliser towards the (end of the)game, maybe we thought that the game was already over. We have to understand that no game is ever easy.”
Napoli dominated possession and created plenty of chances against Chievo but were repeatedly defied by goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino.
A 79th-minute goal by forward Eder salvaged Inter’s unbeaten record after Iago Falque had fired visitors Torino ahead on the hour in front of over 71,000 at San Siro.
Gerson twice gave Roma the lead in the first half at Fiorentina only to see his side pegged back each time by goals from Jordan Veretout and Giovanni Simeone.
But second-half goals from Kostas Manolas and Diego Perotti gave Roma an impressive win to follow-up Tuesday’s 3-0 demolition of Chelsea in the Champions League.
Milan, seventh with 19 ponits, did just enough to get past Sassuolo and claim their sixth league win — still well short of the standard expected of a team that spent more than 200 million euros ($232.32 million) in the transfer window.
Alessio Romagnoli headed Milan in front five minutes before halftime as Sassuolo angrily protested that he had fouled goalkeeper Andrea Consigli.
Suso added the second in the 67th minute as he was released down the touchline, cut inside and fired a left-foot shot past Consigli.
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Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond, Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar