(Reuters) - Benevento dented Juventus's Serie A title hopes on Sunday when Adolfo Gaich’s second-half strike sealed a shock 1-0 victory in Turin and ended the relegation battlers’ 11-match winless run.
The Argentine pounced on a careless pass from Juve midfielder Arthur Melo to fire in the decisive goal after 69 minutes, and the toothless hosts failed to find a way past goalkeeper Lorenzo Montipo.
The defeat left champions Juve in third place, 10 points behind leaders Inter Milan with 11 games remaining.
Benevento’s survival hopes were boosted as they moved seven points clear of the relegation zone in 16th position.
"This was a game that marks a turning point; we had the right attitude," said Benevento captain Nicolas Viola.
"We are overjoyed. We are a humble team and when we find courage we are hard to beat, we make the opposition play badly."
Andrea Pirlo’s Juve were unbeaten in their previous five league games but he could not prevail over his former AC Milan team mate Filippo Inzaghi in the opposing dugout, despite the hosts mustering nine shots on target to Benevento’s one.
Juve started on the front foot as Cristiano Ronaldo flashed a shot wide and Montipo denied Alvaro Morata with a diving save.
The referee awarded Juve a penalty for handball but overturned the decision following a VAR review, and Ronaldo found the net only to be denied by the offside flag.
The Portuguese striker, who scored a hat-trick against Cagliari in his last game, was hungry for a goal and stung Montipo’s palms before volleying an effort narrowly wide on the turn.
But a catastrophic mistake from Arthur gifted the patient visitors the lead, as the Brazilian’s slack pass across his own penalty box was intercepted by Gaich, who finished into the bottom corner.
Ronaldo was Juve’s biggest threat as they pushed for a late equaliser, but he could not beat Montipo. The goalkeeper stuck out a leg to deny one effort before parrying another which fell into the path of Danilo but the defender blasted the rebound over.
Elsewhere, Atalanta drew level with Juve on 55 points and strengthened their grip on fourth place with a 2-0 win at Hellas Verona thanks to a Ruslan Malinovskyi penalty and a Duvan Zapata strike in the first half.
Adam Marusic’s curling strike earned Lazio a 1-0 win at Udinese to put the seventh-placed Romans one point behind AS Roma and Napoli, while Antonio Candreva struck the winner as midtable Sampdoria defeated 17th-placed Torino 1-0 in Genoa.
(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie, editing by Ed Osmond and Clare Fallon)