For 85 minutes, it appeared as though the scudetto had already been awarded. Sure, AC Milan were leading against Atalanta, but Claudio Marchisio had given Juventus the early 1-0 lead over Lecce, so it was only a matter of time. On Sunday, the title would return home to Turin. And then...Andrea Bertolacci stepped in, and Lecce had a new hero in their substitute.
Marchisio's opener was nearly routine for this Juventus side. Of course, Andrea Pirlo was involved, sending in one of his perfect crosses. Marchisio was waiting in the area to head past Massimiliano Benassi, starting off his 200th professional match with a bang.
But then the Juve that had been so strong in the last few matches just seemed to fizzle out. Juan Cuadrado was sent off with a second yellow, but despite having 35 minutes left to play, the Old Lady just couldn't create anything. Alessandro Matri came on for Fabio Quagliarella, Alessandro Del Piero for Mirko Vucinic. Still, nothing.
And then the inconceivable happened. Gigi Buffon, so flawless, the rock of the Juve side, screwed up. Leonardo Bonucci passed the ball back to his keeper, but when Buffon went to return the pass, something went terribly wrong. A heavy touch by Italy's number one left plenty of room for Lecce to pounce, and the ball was rolled into the open goal before Buffon even understood what was happening.
Bertolacci's goal may not have rescued Lecce from relegation -- with Genoa's win, the salentini are four points from safety -- but it may have opened the door to a Milan challenge for the scudetto. Just a point now separates the two teams at the top.