Juventus’ inconsistent form reared its ugly head again with a 2-0 loss at Lecce, while AC Milan kept the field at bay with another win.
Juve’s hopes of snatching a European berth were put in jeopardy by their latest defeat, which came after Gianluigi Buffon was sent off at the Stadio Communale Via del Mare.
The Juve captain and goalkeeper saw red in the 12th minute for handballing outside the box, and Djamel Mesbah and Andrea Bertolacci made the Old Lady pay with goals either side of half-time.
Luigi Delneri sacrificed Serbian midfielder Milos Krasic to bring on reserve shot-stopper Marco Storari for Buffon, but the incident seemed to rattle Juve and Lecce took full advantage in the 31st minute through Mesbah, the Algerian steering Gianni Munari’s lobbed pass beyond Storari.
The hosts doubled their advantage three minutes into the second half through Bertolacci, the 20-year-old playmaker tapping home after being played in by David Di Michele’s header.
Lecce also went down to 10 men when skipper Guiseppe Vives earned a second caution 20 minutes from injury time, but Juve were unable to capitalise and fell to their fourth loss in eight league fixtures.
The latest defeat leaves them 14 points adrift of Serie A leaders Milan, though Palermo and Roma’s own dire form sees Delneri’s side safe in sixth place for now.
For Lecce, the win takes them four points clear of the drop zone in 16th place.
Elsewhere, Milan romped to a 2-1 win over 10-man Chievo thanks to substitute striker Alexandre Pato’s 82nd minute winner.
The Brazilian latched onto a through ball by Gennaro Gattuso and shimmied his way through Chievo’s defenders before unleashing a wonder strike that goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino could do little about.
The valuable away win maintains Milan’s five-point gap over second-placed Inter.
Lazio edged past bottom-placed Bari 1-0 at home thanks to a lone goal from Brazilian playmaker Hernanes, while Roma slumped to a third straight loss in outrageous fashion, losing 4-3 at Genoa despite leading 3-0 at the break.
Rodrigo Palacio and Alberto Paloschi scored braces for the hosts in the second half, providing yet another headache for under-fire Roma boss Claudio Ranieri.
Meanwhile, Udinese’s upward momentum halted with a goal-less draw at home to lowly Brescia, Fiorentina and Sampdoria fought out a scoreless stalemate and Raffaele Palladino’s 89th-minute equaliser salvaged a 2-2 draw for Parma against strugglers Cesena.