Juventus title hopes fade as Cagliari beat them at home

Juventus suffered a second straight defeat Saturday against a solid Cagliari side who took home a 3-2 win from Turin thanks to a gritty and virtually flawless game, dpa reported.

Davide Biondini, Brazilian Jeda and Alessandro Matri sank Juve's hopes to keep leaders Inter Milan in their sights, as the title holders could leave them nine points behind.

The visitors from Sardinia confirmed an impressive form that in the last 11 games allowed them to lose only to Roma and hold Inter to a 1-1 draw earlier this month.

Their fast-paced start paid off on 16 minutes, with Biondini meeting an Andrea Cossu cross to nod the ball by Gianluigi Buffon's right post.

Earlier good chances had gone begging for Juve when defender Nicola Lagrottaglie had a close-range volley well saved by Federico Marchetti, who one minute later saw Mohamed Sissoko fire wide from a few metres off.

Juve were often in trouble under the choking pressure from Cagliari, but managed to equalize on 31 minutes through a great header from their towering Mali midfielder Mohamed Sissoko off a corner kick.

After a wide volley from Cagliari play maker Michele Fini, Juve completed their comeback on 38 minutes thanks to a drive from Czech veteran Pavel Nedved, who pounced on a clearance and drilled a low drive to the right of the diving Marchetti.

The guests kept showing no respect in the second half and levelled on 54 minutes with a deadly counter attack finished off by Brazilian Jeda with a sweet lob as Buffon rushed toward him.

More efforts went begging for Juve as Nedved fired wide from a tight angle and Brazilian Amauri was well marked when he tried a feeble header.

A further counter attack put Alessandro Matri face to face with Buffon for a goal that gave Cagliari the win on 78 minutes.

Serie A champions Inter hold a six-point lead on Juve and should be able to stretch their advantage on Sunday when they welcome strugglers Torino at the Giuseppe Meazza, while AC Milan visit Lazio and look to leapfrog Juve in second position.

Earlier Saturday, Napoli ended a run of three defeats with a 2-2 home draw against Udinese.

Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik were on target to put Napoli two up within the first half hour, but Udinese closed the first half level at 2-2 thanks to a spot kick from Antonio Di Natale and a spectacular drive from Fabio Quagliarella.

Both games in Naples and Turin started 15 minutes later than scheduled as the Italian footballers association (AIC) began a protest against the one-year doping ban that the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) handed down on two colleagues. The start of all the other Serie A and Serie B ties over the weekend are also to be delayed by 15 minutes.

Daniele Mannini, a 25-year-old now at Napoli, and Davide Possanzini, 32, showed up late at a doping test after a game in December 2007, when they both were playing with Serie B side Brescia.

The Italian Olympic committee sentenced the pair to a 15-day ban, but the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) filed an appeal with CAS and obtained a much harsher sanction of one year that triggered the protest of Italy's players.

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