MILAN: Italy striker Andrea Belotti made amends for missing a second-half penalty for Torino with a late brace that secured a share of the points in a 2-2 draw at Fiorentina in Serie A Monday (Tuesday in Manila).
In a clash helpful to both sides’ chances of qualifying for Europe next season, Fiorentina raced to a two-goal lead before half-time after Riccardo Saponara, in the eighth minute and Nikola Kalinic, with a 38th minute header, beat Joe Hart in the Torino net.
Hart was otherwise heroic in a one-sided first half that saw the England keeper save at the feet of Kalinic then Borja Valero in the opening minutes, then deny Cristian Tello later on as the hosts piled on the pressure.
Those stops proved crucial in a more balanced second half, in which Fiorentina added to their current woes by throwing away a two-goal lead for the second game in succession.
When Carlos Salcedo fouled Lucas Boye, Torino were handed a lifeline, only for Belotti to sky his spot kick just after the hour.
But the Italy front man was soon performing his trademark ‘rooster’ celebration — running away with his hand to his head imitating a rooter’s crown — after reducing arrears only three minutes later by firing a loose ball in the area past Ciprian Tatarusanu.
Five minutes from the end, Belotti was left unmarked at the back post to collect Daniele Baselli’s cross past the Fiorentina ‘keeper to claim his 19th goal of the campaign, pulling level with leader Edin Dzeko of Roma.
Fiorentina, who were whistled off the park by unhappy fans at the Artemio Franchi, remain in eighth place at six points behind AC Milan, who sit 19 points off leaders Juventus.
Embattled coach Paulo Sousa said he could understand their frustration: “The fans pay for their tickets so they have a right to express themselves.
“We could have settled it earlier, but the lads really gave it everything for the shirt. I can’t have any complaints.”
Torino are ninth, five points adrift of Fiorentina and saw their late fightback prompt applause by some of the home fans as they left the pitch.
“That’s one of the nice things about our football,” said Belotti, who was nevertheless disappointed not to have taken the sole lead of the Serie A scoring charts.
“I’m on 19 now, but it could have been 20 if I hadn’t missed the penalty. But I want to keep challenging.
“I haven’t set a target but I want to score as many as possible.”
Juventus, aiming for a record sixth consecutive scudetto, boast a seven-point lead over second-placed Roma, who saw Radja Nainggolan hit a spectacular brace in a 3-1 win at Inter Milan on Sunday to keep the title race alive.
The win was all the more important after Napoli’s title bid was dented by a 2-0 defeat at home to Atalanta on Saturday which left Maurizio Sarri’s men in third place, 12 points off the pace.
Atalanta are fourth, one point ahead of Lazio and three ahead of Inter.