Juventus survives early scare to beat last-place Benevento

Benevento's Amato Ciciretti, right, scores a goal during the Italian Serie A soccer match between Juventus and Benevento at the Allianz Stadium in Turin, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 5 2017. (Alessandro Di Marco/ANSA via AP)

MILAN — Last-place Benevento threatened a major shock in Turin before Juventus eventually fought back to win 2-1 Sunday and close the gap on leader Napoli in Serie A.

Benevento had not picked up a single point in its previous 11 league games — the worst start in the division’s history — but took a surprise lead through Amato Ciciretti in the 19th minute.

That lead lasted nearly 40 minutes before Gonzalo Higuain levelled. Juan Cuadrado scored what was to prove the winner in the 65th.

"We went behind with the only shot we allowed our opponents, but we kept our heads. It seemed like a cursed match, the ball didn’t want to go in, but we managed to turn it around," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said.

"The season is long, we have to maintain the speed of a cruise ship because too many ups and downs are not positive. It will be a battle right until the final day."

Juventus moved into second spot, a point behind Napoli, which was held 0-0 at Chievo Verona.

Inter slipped to third, two points behind Napoli, after drawing 1-1 at home to Torino.

Lazio was four points behind Napoli after its home match against Udinese was postponed because of heavy rain in the Italian capital.

Juventus was expected to sweep aside bottom Benevento and celebrate this week’s 120th anniversary of the club’s foundation.

The hosts hit the woodwork twice early but Benevento, which had scored just four goals all season, took the lead when Ciciretti curled a stunning free kick around the wall and into the bottom left corner.

Juventus wasted several chances before eventually finding the equalizer in the 57th. Blaise Matuidi headed Mattia De Sciglio’s cross back to Higuain, who volleyed into the top right corner.

And the Bianconeri turned the match around completely eight minutes later when Cuadrado met Alex Sandro’s cross from the left with a downward header at the far post.

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NO WAY THROUGH

Napoli dropped points for only the second time this season, unable to find a way past a solid Chievo team in a 0-0 stalemate.

Maurizio Sarri’s team was eager to bounce back from Wednesday’s 4-2 defeat to Manchester City and almost certain Champions League elimination.

Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina was out with a back injury, with Luigi Sepe making his first Serie A appearance for the club since 2009.

Sepe was almost embarrassed on the hour mark when Ivan Radovanovic spotted him off his line and tried his luck from 60 yards (meters) out, but the goalkeeper scrambled back to reach the ball from under the bar.

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PACKED STANDS

Inter had to come from behind to draw 1-1 against Torino and maintain its unbeaten start to the season.

More than 70,000 fans were at San Siro for the lunchtime match.

But they were left stunned when Iago Falque gave Torino the lead on the hour mark, surging between two defenders before blasting the ball into the near bottom corner from the edge of the area.

Joel Obi missed a great chance to double Torino’s lead before substitute Eder fired in the equalizer when Mauro Icardi headed down Ivan Perisic’s cross to the Italy forward.

Inter almost won the match two minutes from time but Matias Vecino’s effort from distance crashed off the crossbar.

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OTHER MATCHES

Roma set a Serie A record with its 12th consecutive away victory as it won 4-2 at Fiorentina, thanks to two first-half goals from Gerson — his first for the club.

Alessio Romagnoli’s header and a wonderful curler from Suso saw AC Milan win 2-0 at Sassulo, while Spal drew 1-1 at 10-man Atalanta.

Elsewhere, Cagliari beat relegation-threatened Hellas Verona 2-1 to move six points above the drop zone.