CHICAGO (AP) – Novara coach Emiliano Mondonico's return to Serie A proved disappointing as he witnessed his new team lose 2-1 to Chievo Verona on Thursday and look even more certain of relegation.
Sergio Pellissier grabbed his 100th goal for Chievo shortly after the half-hour mark and it looked all over when Cyril Thereau doubled its lead 12 minutes from time. But Giuseppe Mascara pulled one back less than a minute later to set up a nervy finish.
Mondonico, who had not coached in the top division since being fired by Fiorentina seven years ago, replaced Attilio Tesser on Monday in the 12th coaching change in Serie A this season.
Novara remains bottom of the standings, seven points below Siena, which has a game in hand.
''I'm happy to be back on the bench, but I'm upset to have lost,'' Mondonico said. ''I saw a team which can play in Serie A, it's not here by chance and its not clearly inferior to its opponents.
''I saw a team which can fight to remain in Serie A. I don't think people saw a team which are resigned to relegation or without talent.''
The first half got off to a bright start and Novara goalkeeper Samir Ujkani was forced into two smart saves to deny first Pellissier and then Luciano.
Novara's first real chance came in the 15th minute when it won a free kick in a dangerous position just outside the area. Ivan Radovanovic drilled it in and Stefano Sorrentino's save went straight back to the Serbia midfielder but his second shot was well held by the Chievo goalie.
Chievo should have taken the lead in the 26th minute as Boukary Drame put in a perfect cross for the onrushing Thereau. However, the Frenchman for some reason decided to leap and attempt to score with his knee, and he blazed over.
The visiting side did take the lead minutes later as chaotic defending in the box saw the ball fall to Pellissier - Chievo's highest ever goalscorer - and as the Novara defenders watched the ball bounce the Chievo captain muscled his way past them and tucked it past Ujkani.
Novara almost immediately equalized but Mascara was a whisker away from making contact at the far post. It had another decent opportunity in first-half stoppage time as Sorrentino could parry Marco Rigoni's cross only out to Andrea Caracciolo, who headed just wide of the left upright.
Chances were few and far between in the second half, although Radovanovic did fire narrowly over the crossbar shortly past the hour.
Thereau appeared to have sealed the points when he doubled Chievo's lead. Pellissier crossed to Paolo Sammarco, who had gone on seconds earlier, and he cut it back for Thereau to fire into the bottom left corner.
Novara gave itself a glimmer of hope a minute later when Rigoni hooked the ball across goal and Mascara headed in at the far post for his first goal for the club since arriving from Napoli last month.
However, Chievo clung on for only its second victory away from home this season.