Goals from Fabio Quagliarella and Marco Borriello meant that it finished all square at the Juventus Stadium in Turin, but it was the actions of the referee that grabbed the most attention on the night of Davide Ballardini's debut on the Genoa bench.
Juventus had two penalty appeals denied, and afterward the fans—and coach Antonio Conte—were furious. Early on, it was il Grifone who looked more like scoring, as Juve's own Ciro Immobile almost put the visitors ahead, only to be denied by Gigi Buffon.
Then, Eros Pisano snatched at a dangerous ball in the box only to miss dreadfully with a wild strike, squandering the opportunity to put the visitors ahead and on their way to their first win away to Juventus since 1991.
At the other end, Mirko Vucinic, Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba all looked dangerous and pressed with intent—even if there was little end product.
It was Quagliarella who broke the deadlock early in the second half after getting on the end of a ball from Stephan Lichtsteiner, who had been set up in turn by Vucinic. That goal was followed by a close-range header at the other end from former Juve forward Borriello, who declined to celebrate following the equaliser.
The action late in the second half is what's got everyone talking, however. Juventus were furious, feeling that they'd deserve two or even three penalties throughout the game.
Certainly, Luca Antonelli's earlier tug on Vucinic was a straightforward penalty, but calls for a late handball following a ricochet from a fumbling Andreas Granqvist seemed harsh and unrealistic. Not that something being unrealistic and overly simplistic ever stopped Italian football from boiling over, and at the end of the game there were furious displays and strong words from the Juve camp.
“We are talking about something very strange that happened here," Conte said afterward. "A human error is one thing, but when an official says it’s a penalty and the referee doesn’t give it, then doubts are going to arise."
Conte was referring to the linesman, who advised the referee that the handball had been deliberate and a penalty, only to have his opinion overruled by the ref, who ultimately has the final say.
“I think they went over the line today,” the Juve boss told Sky Italia (via Football Italia).
“I would’ve accepted it if he hadn’t seen it, but the goal line referee said it was a penalty. The arm must be close to the torso, the rules are clear. In these cases, you’ve got to give up your refereeing licence."
Conte is likely to face some punishment for the comments, and has done his side no favours by speaking so harshly—and incorrectly—following the ricochet incident. The latest interpretation of the law says that a rebounded ball can not be deliberate, and FIFA rules focus more on intent, namely the movement of the hand rather than the ball.
Pro and anti-Juve conspiracy theories are rife in Italy, and incidents like this only serve to fuel the debate. Comments from elsewhere in the Juve setup won't help matters, either. Beppe Marotta, the Bianconeri's often controversial general manager, told Italian TV that it all came down to the fact that referee Marco Guida was from Naples, home of Juve's biggest rivals for the Scudetto.
In the eyes of the neutral, the protests seem unreasonable, especially as they seem more concerned with the non-hand ball than the incorrectly refused penalty against Vucinic earlier in the game.
And while Genoa have reacted a little more calmly—perhaps because a point away to the league leaders is not a bad result for the troubled Rossoblu—they too had some cause to feel hard done by.
Mirko Vucinic had appeared to handle the ball in the first half, but claims for a penalty were ignored. Speaking afterward to Sky Italia, Ballardini was in no humour for protests from either side.
“Talking about individual incidents is a great limitation of our football culture,” he said.
His boss was less diplomatic. “Conte is arrogant!" blasted the Genoa president Enrico Preziosi on Sky Italia (h/t Yahoo!). "Where is the Juve Style?” he asked, referring to the famous "Stile Juve," a concept most commonly associated with the Juventus of old, which prided itself on the classy way it did business.
"I don't want to insult anyone, just criticise certain behaviour," the Italian entrepreneur went on, as reported by the Italian sports daily Il Corriere dello Sport. "Vucinic's handball was a penalty and we're not complaining. But as the final jab, I'd like to remind Conte that Juventus won a Scudetto thanks to a ghost goal from Muntari."
The game against Genoa would have been a great time to win for Conte's men, as title rivals Lazio suffered a shock loss at home to Chievo Verona.
As it stands, just like the debates and the conspiracy theories that so characterise Italian football, the race for the Scudetto looks set to run and run.
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