Fiorentina blew a hole in Juventus’s title hopes with a shock 2-1 win in Florence on Sunday as Nikola Kalinic reassured fans troubled by a possible move to China with a superb first-half opener.

Winning coach Paulo Sousa was riled up Saturday after hearing Massimiliano Allegri claim that Juve were coming to “take command” at the Artemio Franchi stadium.

After a dominant first half that saw Fiorentina miss a host of solid chances, it appeared Allegri’s words cut deep. 

The memorable Viola win handed Juve just their fourth defeat in 20 games to leave the champions, who have a game in hand, just one point ahead of Roma. Napoli are four points off the pace in third and Lazio a further point back.

Admitting Fiorentina “gave more than 100 percent”, Allegri told Mediaset Premium: “It’s a setback for us, but we still have the chance to be four points clear.

“Teams usually play the games of their lives against us, they give it more than 100 percent, so we can’t afford to be anything less than 100 percent.

“Roma and Napoli are just behind us, so it could go right to the end. But we will learn from this defeat.”

After an injury-plagued six weeks, Allegri deployed his trademark ‘BBC’ defence of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini for the first time since October 29.

But Fiorentina were fired up from kick-off and it took only seven minutes for captain Gianluigi Buffon to launch a rallying call from the goalmouth.

Viola forward Matias Vecino was a constant threat, the Uruguayan muscling past Juve midfielder Claudio Marchisio to run into the area and unleash a drive had Buffon got down low to parry on seven minutes.

Juve were under the cosh barely two minutes later as Kalinic chased and controlled a high ball, offloading a pass to help set up Vecino for a drive at Buffon’s near post that skimmed off the upright.

Federico Chiesa’s snap shot after a nice dribble into the area had Buffon down low to parry and Vecino’s drive from distance then curled wide of Buffon’s upright on the quarter-hour.

The fast start ruffled the champions and their first chance came after 20 minutes, Alex Sandro controlling a clearance from a corner only to shoot straight at Ciprian Tatarusanu.

Fiorentina’s earlier enterprise eventually paid off, Federico Bernardeschi urging Kalinic to go on a run after taking possession and sending the Croatian through to beat Buffon with a low angled strike on 37 minutes.

Juve spurned chances to level before half-time when Juan Cuadrado missed Paulo Dybala’s cross before Higuain saw a shot charged down by Maxi Olivera.

The visitors’ woes deepened on 54 minutes, Milan Badelj’s angled drive bamboozled Buffon after Chiesa provided the foil with a run across the goalmouth.

Refreshed after being rested for Juve’s 3-2 Italian Cup win over Atalanta in midweek, Higuain reduced arrears four minutes later when he ran in to pick up the rebound from Stefano Sturaro’s close-range effort to fire past Tatarusanu.

But Juve’s chances from there on in were few and far between.

In a last, desperate move Allegri replaced Barzagli with striker Mario Mandzukic for the final 10 minutes, and it almost paid off.

A mad goalmouth scramble followed when Tatarusanu spilled Higuain’s header from a free kick, the Argentine poking two or three times at the loose ball as the ‘keeper scrambled to recover. 

Mandzukic then did all the hard work for Dybala a minute from the finish but the Argentine forward ballooned a skewed shot over from 16 yards.

Six minutes of injury time were added, but Juve survived a harsher beating when Kalinic set up late substitute Josip Ilicic for a great chance that the Slovenian blundered yards from goal. – Agence France-Presse

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