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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr 9, 2006

Serie A: Juve held, Kaka bags hat-trick in Milan win

ROME, April 9 (Reuters) - Juventus struggled to shake off their Champions League hangover as they drew 1-1 with Fiorentina on Sunday.

Knocked out of Europe's top club competition by Arsenal in midweek, the Serie A leaders fell behind early in the second half to a goal by the division's leading scorer, Luca Toni, before Alessandro Del Piero equalised to salvage a point.

The result gave them 80 points from 33 matches, seven ahead of second-placed AC Milan, who came from behind to beat Chievo Verona 4-1 in an earlier game.

Inter Milan lie third on 71 points after winning 3-1 at Ascoli on Saturday. AS Roma (63 points) climbed one point above Fiorentina into the fourth and final Champions League berth with a 3-1 win over Lecce.

Juventus were second-best for most of the first half at Turin's Stadio delle Alpi.

Only the quick reactions of Christian Abbiati prevented them going behind in the 16th minute, the reserve goalie diving to save Luis Jimenez's penalty after defender Jonathan Zebina had fouled Toni.

Abbiati was powerless, however, shortly after the interval when Toni broke the offside trap before curling a right-footed shot past Abbiati.

Faced with the possibility of another humbling defeat, Juventus found their rhythm and winger Gianluca Zambrotta tested visiting keeper Bogdan Lobont with a powerful shot from outside the area.

In the 62nd minute Del Piero, who missed both legs of the tie against Arsenal due to injury, controlled a defence-splitting pass by Patrick Vieira before firing into the bottom corner of the net.

Juve finished the match in attack, Vieira heading the ball against the bar and Zlatan Ibrahimovic missing an easy shot from an unmarked position on the edge of the box.

With five rounds left to play, Juventus look safe at the top, though Milan are clearly the in-form side with Brazilian playmaker Kaka scoring his first hat-trick for the club.

Chievo had failed to earn a point in four previous Serie A matches against Milan at the San Siro and the home side dominated the early stages.

Chievo's response to Milan's lengthy periods of possession was to pump long balls forward - a tactic that unexpectedly paid off in the 14th minute, when Marco Malago nodded on for Pellissier to volley past Dida.

The goal failed to change the balance of the contest.

Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf had already forced a good save from Alberto Fontana with a long-range effort before Kaka laid the ball off to Nesta to score the third Serie A goal of his 12-year career just before 30 minutes.

Milan kept up the pressure and went ahead just after the hour mark, Kaka tapping-in from close range after Fontana had parried a snap shot by Filippo Inzaghi.

Kaka doubled their lead with a 70th-minute penalty after Malago's handball, and completed his hat-trick when he drilled the ball in from the edge of the area.

Roma continued their bid for a return to Europe's elite with a goal by Cristian Chivu and a brace by winger Mancini.

It was also a good day for Roma's city rivals Lazio, who moved up to sixth and into the UEFA Cup places with a 3-2 win over Siena.

At the other end of the table, Treviso became the first club to be relegated when they lost 3-1 to Messina.

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