ROME - Ten-man Juventus let a two-goal lead slip in a controversial 2-2 draw at lowly Cesena in Serie A on Saturday as they saw their hopes of qualifying for European competition next season dealt another blow.
Alessandro Matri (pictured) fired a double inside 35 minutes to calm Juve's nerves after recent criticism but Cesena immediately hit back when Luis Jimenez scored from the spot.
Defender Marco Motta was then sent off in an eventful first half and though goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, still on the pitch after committing the last-ditch foul for the penalty, produced a string of saves, Marco Parolo equalised with 10 minutes to go.
After criticism of Alessandro Del Piero's exclusion from the side for the 1-0 home defeat by Milan last week, the veteran was given a starting berth by Del Neri against Cesena.
The former Italy striker showed his class when the visitors broke on the counter-attack after 19 minutes by teeing up Matri whose clinical finish gave Juve an early lead.
Cesena then squandered a golden opportunity to equalise just seven minutes later.
Sent clean through on goal, Emanuele Giaccherini, who scored twice last weekend in the win at Sampdoria, hit the post with his first shot and, with the goal gaping, somehow sidefooted the rebound high over from three yards in the miss of the season.
The Bianconeri took full advantage of the let off to double their lead. This time Matri set up Del Piero and, when his shot came back off the bar, the former Cagliari player was on hand to twist acrobatically and nod in his fifth Juve goal.
The game took another turn four minutes before half-time with the Juve defence breached again.
Marco Parolo rounded Buffon and was brought down for a penalty but, instead of being sent off, the Italy goalkeeper was only shown a yellow card to protests from players and fans.
After flares were cleared from the penalty area, Jimenez sent Buffon the wrong way from the spot to halve the deficit.
Two minutes later Juve were down to 10 men after Motta was handed a second yellow card for a high boot on Giaccherini.
After his let off, Buffon became the central figure in the second half saving from Parolo, Jimenez and Erjon Bogdani as Cesena piled on the pressure.
But there was nothing the Juve captain could do 10 minutes from time when Parolo finished sweetly into the corner from just over 15 metres after the visitors failed to clear a free-kick.comments