Milan: Defending champion Juventus extended its unbeaten streak to 48 games with a controversial 1-0 win at 10-man Catania in Serie A on Sunday after the Sicilian side had a goal disallowed. Catania thought it had taken a first-half lead when Gonzalo Bergessio fired in but the strike was ruled out after almost a minute of deliberation. The reason for the disallowed goal was not immediately clear — either offside or a handling offence.
In the aftermath of the decision, Catania President Antonino Pulvirenti was banished from the bench and in the ensuing five minutes five of its players were booked as tension between the sides rose. To add insult to injury, Nicklas Bendtner appeared in an offside position in the buildup to Arturo Vidal's second-half goal. Giovanni Marchese was sent off after receiving his second booking to cap a miserable day for Catania. Pulvirenti was still visibly irate after the match.
"It's not only that our goal was disallowed, but Juve's goal was offside," he fumed. "It's the third time decisions have gone against us after the matches against Parma and Inter. An offside goal for them and a good goal which wasn't given to us . What's most absurd is that the goal was ruled out by the Juventus bench, the linesman had given the goal. The goal was ruled out only after Juve's protests. It's a scandal, a disgrace. They gave our goal and then ruled it out after the protests. Mistakes can happen, but decisions can't be changed after protests from the bench. I want explanations."
The stadium rocked with chants of "thieves, thieves" from the disgruntled Catania fans at the end of the match. "On the pitch we didn't see much," Juventus assistant manager Angelo Alessio said. "The linesman lifted his flag, then I don't know what happened. No, the Juventus bench didn't do anything. The linesman was talking to the official and he made the decision. Some of our players who were closer to the incident went to the officials. A mistake can happen and it's a shame, but we played our game and wasted several scoring opportunities.
"We took control from start to finish and dominated with 11 shots on goal ... There was only one team on the field — Juventus — and Catania defended well. An incident can happen, we should all just move on." Juventus goal-keeper Gianluigi Buffon kept another clean sheet on his 500th Serie A appearance. With Claudio Marchisio and Lucio injured, Paul Pogba and Bendtner made their first Serie A starts.
Juventus should have taken the lead in the 14th minute when Andrea Pirlo's free kick was cleared but only as far as Kwadwo Asamoah, who unleashed a firce shot from 30 yards, which flew just over the bar. Catania goal-keeper Mariano Andujar did well shortly afterwards to keep out Bendtner's header. Catania hadn't won this fixture since 1964 but was putting pressure on Juventus. It thought it had broken the deadlock in the 25th minute.
Nicolas Spolli's header clipped Francesco Lodi and came off the post, and Bergessio was on hand to smash in the rebound. Catania players were still celebrating when the referee disallowed the goal after consulting with his assistant. It was not clear whether it was ruled out for offside or for a handling offence by Lodi, however replays showed it had come off the Catania player's knee. Juventus then came close to taking the lead several times towards the end of the half.
Pogba sent a 30-yard strike just over before a scramble in the area saw Catania gift the ball to Mirko Vucinic but Nicola Legrottaglie recovered in time to block his effort. Vucinic had another chance when Bendtner knocked down a cross but Andujar pulled off a save to deny the Montenegro striker from point-blank range. Juventus took the lead in the 57th minute when Bendtner, who appeared to be offside, had his effort parried by Andujar but Vidal was on hand to follow up.
Vidal could have doubled his tally shortly afterwards but he fired wide of the right upright. Marchese received his second booking and was dismissed when he handled in the 67th minute. Andujar pulled off another stunning save 10 minutes from time to deny substitute Sebastian Giovinco. Giovinco then went on a run in stoppage time but a woeful finish saw his effort fly well over the crossbar.