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Juve win prompts scrutiny of Serie A officials

06 October 2014, 14:36

Milan - A whiff of scandal wafted over Italy's Serie A for the first time this season after a dramatic top-of-the-table clash that saw champions Juventus defeat challengers Roma 3-2 in a bad-tempered clash in Turin.

In a match described as "incredible" by Juventus 'keeper Gianluigi Buffon, two players and Roma coach Rudi Garcia were red carded while three dubious penalty decisions were given as Juventus went three points clear of the Giallorossi.

For legendary Roma captain Francesco Totti, who has spent 21 seasons with the capital club, a string of dubious decisions by referee Gianluca Rocchi raised age-old beliefs that Juventus routinely benefit from favourable decisions.

"Juventus should have a championship of their own because they always manage to win," Totti told Sky television.

With 30 official titles, Juventus are Italy's most successful club domestically and boast a support ranging from the boot of Italy to Switzerland, which borders the north of the country.

But Juventus are also arguably the most hated club in the land, due in large part to the assumption that they have regularly benefited from favourable refereeing decisions.

The record books show Juve have officially won 30 Serie A titles but the club and its fans still insist they have won 32.

Less than a decade ago Juventus were stripped of two league titles they won under Fabio Capello for their role in a match-fixing affair. The 'Calciopoli' scandal, as it became known, saw Juventus stripped of their 2005 and 2006 titles and demoted to Serie B.

The performance of Rocchi on Sunday only served to reignite beliefs that Juventus still wield massive influence among Italian football officials.

Whether those accusations are true or not, Rocchi's performance was pilloried throughout the Italian media. One headline in Gazzetta dello Sport read: "Rocchi horror picture show."

The 41-year-old from Florence was notably criticised for awarding Juventus a penalty in the 26th minute after Roma wing-back Maicon used his elbow to defend his face from an Andrea Pirlo freekick.

Also read: Balotelli snubbed by Italy

Although Maicon appeared to be just outside the penalty area, Rocchi hesitated before appearing to bow to pressure from Juve's angry players. Carlos Tevez converted the spot kick to give Juve a 1-0 lead.

Former Serie A referee Paolo Casarin, who also served as chief of the league's refereeing body, claimed it was Rocchi's biggest mistake of the night.

"The biggest mistake made was the penalty decision against Maicon. The elbow can (be used to) defend the face and that's what the Brazilian did," Casarin told Radio Anch'Io.

"It seems Rocchi first awarded a free kick on the edge of the area, which seemed the proper decision, then something or somebody influenced him. Protests, fellow officials, or his own uncertainties?"

The penalty award set in motion a series of other dubious decisions, which only added fuel to an already combustible atmosphere.

Totti won a penalty minutes later when he was manhandled by Stephan Lichsteiner in the Juventus box and stepped up to level. But shortly after Roma took a 2-1 lead through Juan Iturbe, Juventus were awarded another penalty when Paul Pogba fell under a soft challenge from Miralem Pjanic on the edge of the penalty area and Tevez converted the spot kick.

The match appeared to be heading for a 2-2 draw until Leonardo Bonucci fired a volley through a crowded Roma defence to give the hosts an 86th minute winner. Although two Juve players were in an offside position, they were not interfering with play and therefore the goal stood.

Roma coach Garcia said doubts over refereeing decisions showed exactly why video replays should be introduced into the game. "We're in the 21st century after all," said the Frenchman. A calm Garcia, however, also admitted his players lost because "we didn't take our chances".

As the post-match inquest began Juventus general manager Beppe Marotta took the unusual step of addressing the press to play down Totti's complaints.

"His bitterness at the defeat is understandable, but what he said is unacceptable," Marotta told reporters.

"Every year the finger is pointed at Juventus because of events that are less than clear, but I believe that in reality and over the duration of a season these episodes get evened out."

Totti, however, believes Juventus simply cannot lose the title this season despite commentators insisting Roma would push the Turin giants all the way.

"Yes, but it doesn't matter because we'll still finish second. All three of Juve's goals were invalid," he said.



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