Captain Francesco Totti scored late from the spot to cap a crucial 3-1 win for AS Roma away to Hellas Verona, which closed the gap on leaders Juventus to six points on Sunday.
Elsewhere, Giampaolo Pazzini scored a late winner for AC Milan in a precious 2-1 win away to Cagliari, while city rivals Inter were held to a scoreless draw at home by basement side Catania.
Livorno boosted their relegation battle with a 3-1 home win over US Sassuolo, while at the other end of the table Torino and Parma moved up one place to sixth and seventh with 1-0 wins over Atalanta BC and Udinese respectively.
Juventus had to settle for a share of the points in a 1-1 draw away to SS Lazio on Saturday when goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was sent off and left the champions with 10 men for much of their encounter at the Stadio Olimpico.
SSC Napoli, in third, were held 1-1 by visitors AC Chievo Verona and are 12 points adrift of Juventus.
Totti was quick to underline Roma’s scudetto ambitions when he told Sky Sport Italia: “After Juve’s slip up yesterday, we put pressure on ourselves to take the three points. I think we’ve fired a warning shot with regard to the championship fight. We’re on a par with Juve.”
Roma landed a blow on Juventus with a 1-0 win in the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia last week — a morale boost after they lost 3-0 to the same opponents in their Serie A clash.
Roma were by far the more creative side against Verona and after spurning several chances made the breakthrough in first-half injury-time when Gervinho powered down the left and pulled back for Adem Ljajic to tap home from close range.
Verona leveled minutes after the restart when Emil Hallfredsson finished off the good work of Juan Iturbe to beat Morgan de Sanctis with a powerful drive.
Roma pulled in front on the hour thanks to a superb Gervinho strike from just inside the area and the game turned permanently in the visitors’ favor when late substitute Totti fired home from the spot to secure Roma’s third consecutive win since the away defeat to Juve earlier this month.
Roma coach Rudi Garcia said that Juventus were not assured of the title by any means.
“Juventus are not unbeatable, but they’re a very strong side,” he said. “The title won’t depend on only us. All we can do is our best.”
Juve coach Antonio Conte said on Saturday that he was not used to the word “defeat,” but praised his 10-man side for the fightback that saw Fernando Llorente level Antonio Candreva’s 27th-minute penalty on the hour mark after Buffon had hauled down striker Miroslav Klose.
Meanwhile, Milan repaid Clarence Seedorf’s belief in the struggling Serie A giants with two late goals to hand the Dutchman his second win in as many league games.
Having been sent crashing out of the Coppa Italia quarter-finals by Udinese last week, Milan were staring at a costly league defeat after struggling to level Marco Sau’s 28th-minute opener.
Mario Balotelli launched the fightback with a superb goal from a free-kick on 87 minutes and two minutes later Pazzini, who replaced Robinho on the hour, fired home a tricky volley from a corner.
However, Balotelli could be in hot water as he was booked for provoking Cagliari supporters after scoring his goal.
The Gazzetta Dello Sport showed a photograph of the forward making what it described as a “vulgar gesture.”
The forward was booked for his celebration, became involved in an angry altercation with Cagliari players shortly afterward.
Now ninth with a five-point deficit to fifth-placed Inter, Milan’s bid for a place in Europe has been given a huge boost and Pazzini, who has lingered on the injury sidelines for much of the past nine months, could not hide his joy.
“After so much time it’s great to score such an important goal,” the striker told Sky Sport Italia. “Our team can do so much better. Seedorf helps us remain calm and shows faith in us so it’s up to us to repay that on the pitch.”
In Sunday’s late match, Alberto Aquilani scored a hat-trick, but his ACF Fiorentina team were still held to a 3-3 draw by visitors Genoa as la Viola wasted an opportunity to close within a point of third-placed Napoli, while UC Sampdoria were held 1-1 by Bologna.
Genoa’s last Serie A victory at the Stadio Franchi was in 1977.
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