Juventus’ lead cut as struggling Crotone hit back for point
Juve extended their unbeaten run in Serie A to 19 matches as they edge closer to a seventh straight league title.
A much-changed Juventus saw their lead at the top of Serie A cut to four points after being held to a 1-1 draw at struggling Crotone.
Daniele Rugani, Blaise Matuidi and Paulo Dybala were the only players to retain their places from Sunday’s 3-0 home win against Sampdoria and they looked set for victory when Alex Sandro headed them into a first-half lead.
However, Simy equalised with a wonderful overhead kick in the 65th minute as the relegation-threatened hosts managed to hold on for a valuable point.
Napoli are now hot on the heels of Juve following a 4-2 win against Udinese.
With five matches left, the Old Lady remain on course for a record seventh successive Scudetto title, while Crotone sit one point from safety in 18th place.
Bruno Martella tested the away defence with a teasing ball in the the early exchanges as Juventus started slowly, with striker Simy also threatening with his physical presence.
However, the reigning league champions got into their stride when Douglas Costa and Stefano Sturaro warmed the hands of goalkeeper Alex Cordaz.
Stephan Lichtsteiner saw his right-wing cross drift narrowly past the far post with Cordaz beaten and the pressure eventually told in the 17th minute.
Dybala worked a short corner with Costa before the Brazilian winger whipped in a driven cross for compatriot Sandro to glance into the bottom corner and put Juve ahead.
Crotone hit back, with Wojciech Szczesny collecting dangerous crosses from Rolando Mandragora and Martella before Gonzalo Higuain had his first sight at goal for Juventus, but he could only divert Claudio Marchisio’s long ball at Cordaz.
The hosts almost levelled on the stroke of half-time when the ball fell at the feet of Simy following a mazy run from Moussa Diaby, but the Nigerian striker fired straight at Szczesny.
Crotone built on their late first-half surge as they pushed for an equaliser, with Martella and Markus Rohden letting fly from 25 yards – both off-target.
Davide Faraoni brought a great save from Szczesny with a close-range drive from an indirect free-kick in the Juventus penalty area before Simy restored parity in stunning fashion.
The visitors could only half-clear a left-wing cross and, despite Marcello Trotta mis-kicking a volley, the ball bounced up kindly for Simy to fire an acrobatic overhead kick into the bottom corner.
The leveller galvanised Juventus and the visitors almost regained the lead in the 70th minute through Matuidi’s rasping 25-yard drive but he was denied by a wonderful save from Cordaz.
Cordaz was called into action two minutes later when substitute Rodrigo Bentancur found Higuain in the penalty area to rifle a volley, which the Crotone goalkeeper somehow kept out.
Juan Cuadrado headed wide and Higuain was denied by a last-ditch block but Crotone held on as they boosted their survival hopes with a much-needed point.