Controversy with more betting implications returned to Italy’s top flight on Sunday as Juventus extended their lead and nine-man SS Lazio dropped to fourth after a bad-tempered away defeat to ACF Fiorentina.
Arturo Vidal’s 57th-minute winner against Catania helped Juve extend their lead at the top of Serie A and took their unbeaten streak to 48 matches.
Juventus now have a three-point lead on second-placed SSC Napoli, who came through a tough encounter at home to AC Chievo Verona before prevailing thanks to Marek Hamsik’s 59th-minute winner.
However, the Turin giants’ eighth win in nine games came amid huge controversy.
Argentine striker Ruben Bergessio had tapped a rebound from Nicolas Spolli’s glancing header past Gianluigi Buffon in the Juve goal to give Catania a 27th-minute lead and send the Sicilian fans wild.
Buffon, celebrating his 500th Serie A appearance, looked to have been fairly beaten, but Catania’s celebrations were cut short when the referee disallowed the opener after consulting with his assistant, who said Bergessio was offside.
Club president Antonino Pulvirenti was sent from a furious Catania bench and later complained: “For me, that’s the end of football.”
“Bergessio’s goal was cancelled by the Juve bench,” he said. “The referee and the linesman gave the goal, but after protests from the Juve bench they went back on their decision.”
As well as Catania, the victory — by a side which has twice been stripped of league titles (2004-2005 and 2005-2006) for their role in a match-fixing scandal — did not go down well elsewhere.
Despite the Sicilians’ defeat, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power announced it had paid out to punters who backed them to win.
It activated the “Justice Payout” system in Italy for the first time and explained in a statement: “Sometimes the result is so unfair that it’s simply a fair reimbursement.”
Juventus president Beppe Moratta brushed off claims suggesting foul play.
“These accusations don’t even deserve a response,” Moratta said. “The referee was wrong, but we would have won on points.”
As Inter maintained their recent resurgence with a 3-1 win away to Bologna which moved them up to third, a fiery 2-0 defeat to Fiorentina dropped Lazio to fourth.
Serbian striker Adem Ljajic gave La Viola the lead in spectacular fashion when he dribbled past Lazio’s Alvaro Gonzalez to rocket the ball into the top corner in first-half stoppage-time.
Lazio leveled thanks to Stefano Mauri’s diving header in the 59th minute, but he was flagged offside, despite Juan Cuadrado appearing to play him onside.
The visitors began to dominate, but ultimately failed to level and when Luca Toni came on for the hosts the tide turned.
Toni spurned two quick chances and then Lazio’s composure evaporated when Cristian Ledesma gave away a pointless foul which earned him a second yellow card and a sending off.
Lazio were then reduced to nine men when Brazilian midfielder Hernanes was shown a straight red for a nasty foul on Cuadrado.
Toni’s persistence finally paid off in the dying seconds when he used his physique to hold off the defense, turn and smash the ball into the net to seal Fiorentina’s win.
Lazio coach Vladmir Petkovic praised Fiorentina, but felt aggrieved by the referee’s decision not to award Mauri’s goal.
“The goal was clearly not offside,” Petkovic told Sky Italia. “I also failed to understand some of the cautions we had, but overall we should have done better.”