ACF Fiorentina dominated 10-man Hellas Verona in an eight-goal thriller on Sunday, while Inter stunned 10-man UC Sampdoria 4-0 in Genoa as both sides tightened their grip on Serie A’s two Europa League places.
Elsewhere, SSC Napoli resisted a fightback from SS Lazio, who also had a player sent off, to prevail 4-2 thanks to an injury-time goal from Gonzalo Higuain that gave the Argentine striker a hat-trick.
In Sunday’s late match, captain Riccardo Montolivo struck a first-half missile to earn AC Milan a 1-0 win over basement side Catania.
Frustrated throughout by Maurizio Pellegrino’s ill-disciplined side, Milan missed a series of half chances before Andres Rinaudo saw red in the 78th minute for a rash challenge on Philippe Mexes, his second bookable offense coming after several previous warnings.
However, Clarence Seedorf’s men held their slim lead to claim a fourth consecutive win for the first time this season to move up to eighth, only five points off Inter and firmly in the Europa League zone.
“We’re still making errors and have things to improve on, but I’m not looking at the standings. We’ve got five games to play and we’ll evaluate things at the end,” Seedorf told Sky Sport Italia.
Leaders Juventus were not in action until yesterday, when they were to travel to Udinese looking to restore their eight-point lead on AS Roma, whose 3-1 win at home to Atalanta BC on Saturday reduced their arrears to five points.
Napoli are in third, 12 points adrift of Roma, but still nine ahead of fourth-placed Fiorentina.
Higuain, who had not scored since March 17 and has recently been substituted by coach Rafael Benitez, told Mediaset: “I’m happy for me and for Napoli, especially after our defeat to Parma [last week]. Luck was on our side, but we managed to overturn the score and for that I’m happy.”
With all three Champions League spots virtually accounted for, the battle rages for places in Europe’s second-tier club competition.
Elsewhere in Serie A, Parma drew Bologna 1-1 and Alberto Paloschi celebrated a hat-trick for AC Chievo Verona in a 4-2 over relegation-threatened AS Livorno.
Fiorentina overcame conceding an early goal to hit back through Juan Cuadrado, Alberto Aquilani and Borja Valerom before Verona midfielder Marco Donadel saw red for hauling down Cuadrado.
Verona reduced the gap through a Luca Toni spot-kick, the veteran striker’s 17th goal of the campaign.
However, further goals from Alessandro Matri, from the spot, and Aquilani put the match beyond reach, despite Iturbe hitting a fine consolation in injury time.
Inter’s visit to Sampdoria was highly anticipated after a midweek tit-for-tat spat between Maxi Lopez and Inter’s Mauro Icardi, who lives with the Samp striker’s former girlfriend Wanda Nara and the couple’s two children.
Lopez had slammed his fellow Argentinian for posting pictures of his children, whom he fathered with Nara, in the public domain.
Yet after Lopez snubbed Icardi at the pre-match handshake, Icardi was left laughing with a brace of goals in a 4-0 rout which saw Inter ’keeper Samir Handanovic stop Lopez’s first-half spot-kick and Samp midfielder Eder red-carded.
Samp’s woes were compounded by the fact that Lopez had asked Eder if he could take the penalty.
“I normally take the penalties, but Lopez asked me so I left it to him,” the striker told Rai 2. “There are issues between Maxi and Icardi, but I wish he’d scored the penalty.”