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Verona 2 Juventus 2: Juanito dents Champions League preparations

Juventus suffered a setback in their preparations for next weekend’s UEFA Champions League final as they were held to a  2-2 Serie A draw by Verona on Saturday.

Having already secured their first domestic double for 20 years, the league-and-cup champions began slowly and were twice nearly punished by Verona’s veteran striker Luca Toni before the break.

Fernando Llorente cannoned a volley off the bar as Juventus gradually began to build momentum and they took the lead just before the break through Roberto Pereryra, who produced a breath-taking strike from 25 yards.

But the hosts fought back, and the lively Toni was on hand to finish off a sweeping counterattack just after half-time.

The visitors restored their lead just before the hour when a lovely move behind the defence allowed Llorente to fire home, before Carlos Tevez was denied late on from the spot. 

Things went from bad to worse for Allegri’s side, though, when Simone Pepe was sent off, and the resulting free-kick saw Juanito head home a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser.  

The result is sure to disappoint Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri, whose side will need a substantially improved performance if they are to beat Barcelona in Berlin and earn an historic treble.

Tevez returned to spearhead Allegri’s attack, but it was Capocannoniere rival and ex-Juventus striker Toni who fashioned the first chance after six minutes, latching on to Juanito’s deflected pass inside the area before poking wide.

Juanito headed Emil Hallfredsson’s fizzed corner over the bar nine minutes later, as Juventus struggled to find their usual fluency.

Claudio Marchisio powered a vicious volley into the ground and wide on 23 minutes, but Verona continued to threaten, with Toni prodding just wide from close-range following Hallfredsson’s whipped cross.

Llorente nearly marked his own return to the Juventus starting line-up with a goal just after half an hour, but his crashing volley came back off the bar.

Yet the visitors were not to be denied, and took the lead four minutes before the break when Pereyra cut in from the left and curled home a stunning effort.

But Verona kept going and were rewarded for their efforts early in the second half when a superb counter-attack allowed Hallfredsson to play in Toni, who this time made no mistake in stroking home for his 22nd goal of the season.

The Italian was denied a second on 54 minutes after slicing wide, and the visitors soon seized the initiative.

A trademark ball from Andrea Pirlo over the defence found Simone Padoin, whose cushioned header teed it up for Llorente to fire into the net.   

Tevez came close to wrapping up the win at the other end by driving wide 10 minutes from time and the Argentine should have made sure of victory with an 88th-minute penalty but saw his weak effort saved by Rafael. 

And things got worse for the visitors in stoppage-time as Pepe was red-carded for scything down Mattia Valoti in the centre circle, with the resulting free-kick into the box finding the head of Juanito, who earned his side a well-earned point. 

Sat 30 May, 2015
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