Juventus snatch late draw at Catania

( dpa ) - A last-gasp spot kick from Alessandro Del Piero allowed Juventus to rescue a 1-1 draw Saturday at tough Sicily side Catania.

The Turin side reduced to seven points their deficit from Italian Serie A leaders Inter Milan, who are on 43 points ahead of Sunday's away game at lowly Siena, and drew level with second-place Roma, on 36 points when they visit a solid Atalanta in Bergamo.

Earlier Saturday, a rain-plagued 1-1 draw brought no relief to hosting Empoli and Reggina, who remained mired in the lower reaches of the Italian league.

Juve, who with 36 goals are the league's second best scorers one notch behind Inter, lacked their usual offensive grit and fell behind on 15 minutes as striker Gionatha Spinesi volleyed home a Giuseppe Mascara cross from the left.

Catania already had a first chance when Peruvian defender Juan Vargas fired wide on seven minutes, while Juve's defender Nicola Legrottaglie nodded a corner kick above the bar four minutes later.

As the guests stepped up their efforts to equalize, captain Del Piero twice had his spurts in the area thwarted by Catania's off-side trap, while the league's top striker David Trezeguet failed to receive any usable pass before the break.

In the second half Cristian Molinaro fired narrowly high above the hosts' goal as Juve began a long period of pressing that produced a classy overhead kick from Del Piero and two weak headers from Trezeguet, who remained rooted on 13 goals.

Catania had a single counter-attack chance when Mascara on 63 minutes fired a central drive shortly before Del Piero nodded wide an inviting cross from Cristiano Zanetti.

But a foul from behind from Marco Biagianti on 90 minutes brought down Del Piero, who converted with a deft shot that fooled goalkeeper Ciro Polito.

"I think the draw was deserved because we created a lot of chances and they had hardly any chance," Del Piero said.

Catania remain safely at mid-table alongside Atalanta on 22 points.

Empoli and Reggina draw earlier in the day reopened the league after a three-week winter break, and saw Empoli inch forward onto 16 points from 18 games, with Reggina trailing two points adrift. Reggina are second-last with Siena, albeit with a game in hand.

Fabio Ceravolo laid into the empty net to put Reggina ahead in the first minute, profiting from a defence blunder partly caused by the soaked pitch.

A spot kick on four minutes allowed Empoli to equalize through Luca Saudati, who fired high on seven minutes and nine minutes later took another penalty after being himself floored in the area only to have his shot deflected by Andrea Campagnolo.

A wide volley from Francesco Marianini followed by a Guillermo Giacomazzi header opened the second half for Empoli, while Reggina brought on the just bought 21-year-old Uruguayan Christian Stuani with half an hour to go.

The former Danubio forward had his first chance in the Serie A on 63 minutes, but aimed a feeble shot after his team mate Francesco Cozza had a dangerous effort deflected. dpa ac cc

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