Juventus’s Higuain suffers head knock in bruising Lecce stalemate
Gonzalo Higuain suffered a knock to his head as Juventus were held 1-1 in a bruising clash at lowly Lecce on Saturday.
The defending champions are now in danger of being overtaken by Inter Milan at the top of the Serie A table.
Juventus have 23 points from nine games, but could be overtaken by Antonio Conte’s Inter who are two points behind before hosting Parma later on Saturday.
Argentina forward Higuain collided with Lecce’s Brazilian goalkeeper Gabriel towards the end of the game in southern Italy leaving him with a cut to his forehead but continued to play on despite his heavily-bandaged head.
The 31-year-old sat down on the pitch after the game after suffering from dizziness and was stretchered off.
“Gonzalo is having stitches,” said coach Maurizo Sarri.
“He is conscious, answering questions in a clear way,” he added.
Both goals came from penalties with Dybala’s strike from the spot after 50 minutes cancelled out by Marco Mancosu’s effort six minutes later as the promoted southerners grabbed their first point at home this season.
It was a damaging encounter for the champions with Miralem Pjanic and Rodrigo Bentancur also taking knocks.
Juventus rested Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo after Tuesday’s 2-1 Champions League win over Lokomotiv Moscow, and ahead of two Serie A matches in four days next week.
“Ronaldo was tired both physically and mentally, so it would not have helped to make this journey,” said Sarri.
“When a player expresses his fatigue, it was only right to give him a rest.”
But Dybala, who scored both goals against the Russians, started up front alongside Higuain, with Federico Bernardeschi just behind the Argentine strike duo.
Maurizio Sarri gave starts to Emre Can and Danilo with Blaise Matuidi and Juan Cuadrado both named on the bench.
Promoted Lecce, a side from the heel of Italy, are struggling above the relegation zone, but managed to pull through for a precious point despite being dominated by the visitors.
Slovenian midfielder Zan Majer forced a save from Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny after just two minutes.
Dybala was targeted early by the Lecce defenders with Luca Rossettini and Marco Calderoni picking up yellow cards early for fouling the Argentine forward.
Higuain looked as he had scored the opener after a quarter of an hour finishing off Alex Sandro’s cross, but his effort was ruled for offside.
Gabriel denied Dybala and Bernardeschi then failed to connect with a Danilo cross just before the break.
But Dybala put Juventus ahead five minutes into the second half with his sixth goal in five games.
But captain Mancosu pulled his side back level from the spot six minutes later after a Matthijs De Ligt handball.
Gabriel denied Higuain on the line after 68 minutes and Leonardo Bonucci also sent over as the Turin giants pushed forward unsuccessfully for the winner.
Pjanic was forced off with a muscle injury with Sami Khedira coming on, with Adrien Rabiot replacing Can.
And in a late scramble in front of the Lecce goal Gabriel caught Higuain’s forehead with his elbow.
The Argentine continued to play, before collapsing to the pitch after the whistle.
“We didn’t control our lead well at all, so I didn’t like any of that,” said Sarri.
“We created many scoring opportunities and didn’t take them, so there was a lack of determination and clinical edge.”
Inter host Parma later on Saturday with Genoa playing their first game under new coach Thiago Motta at home against Mario Balotelli’s Brescia.
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