Juventus spurned the chance to go nine points clear of title challengers AS Roma as SSC Napoli crept closer to second place and AC Milan got back on winning terms in Serie A action on Sunday.
On a day of several surprises in Italy’s top flight, Juventus failed to capitalize after Roma’s fourth consecutive league draw, the champions settling for a point in a scoreless draw at Friuli Stadium, which saw Udinese end a six-game losing streak to the Turin giants.
Juventus are now seven points in front of Roma, but coach Massimiliano Allegri said they were ultimately lucky to escape with a point.
“In the first half we played badly... There was improvement in the second half, but it wasn’t easy because Udinese were playing with a lot of intensity,” Allegri said. “It was a fair result because we also risked losing this game.”
In Sunday’s late game, on-loan Roma striker Mattia Destro made his debut for Milan as Filippo Inzaghi’s strugglers beat Parma 3-1 to end a five-game winless streak.
Jeremy Menez hit a brace for the hosts, including a first half penalty, either side of a close-range strike by former Milan midfielder Antonio Nocerino in the 24th minute.
Menez then turned on the style to set up 2006 World Cup winner Cristian Zaccardo to slam home Milan’s third in the 76th minute.
Milan moved up four places into eighth to sit 21 points behind Juventus and 10 behind Napoli in the third and last Champions League qualifying spot.
“It’s clear we can still improve, but we played well today and I’m happy for the lads. We collected three very important points,” Inzaghi said. “We’re coming off a difficult period that has knocked some of our confidence, and we need to get back into a winning stride.”
Rafael Benitez’s Napoli held on for a precious 2-1 win at AC Chievo Verona to finish the weekend as the only top-five side to take all three points and close the gap on stuttering Roma, who were held 1-1 by Empoli.
Manolo Gabbiadini helped give the visitors an 18th minute lead when his shot came off the head of Bostjan Cesar in comical fashion to finish in the back of the net.
After Miguel Britos scored an own goal for Napoli, Gabbiadini rescued the points with a 62nd minute winner.
“It’s our third win in a row, the team is growing in confidence, but we have to keep on focusing on just one game at a time and then see where it takes us,” Benitez said.
Both UC Sampdoria and SS Lazio saw their bids for a third-place finish dented by respective defeats to Torino and AC Cesena.
Samuel Eto’o’s debut for Sampdoria, the Cameroonian replacing Eder on 71 minutes, ended in a chastening 5-1 defeat away to Torino, with former Juventus striker Fabio Quagliarella notably hitting a hat-trick to send Giampiero Ventura’s side up to ninth in the table.
Humbled Sampdoria coach Sinisa Mihajlovic said: “I want to say sorry to the fans, I hold my hands up for this terrible performance today. I can only take my hat off to Ventura and to his team. They were superior on all fronts.”
Lazio outclassed Milan 2-1 last week, but were humbled by league strugglers Cesena 2-1, with Danilo notably scoring a bizarre own goal for Stefano Pioli’s men before Miroslav Klose slammed home a late consolation.
Elsewhere, Paulo Dybala and Andrea Belotti struck one apiece in either half for US Citta di Palermo to secure a 2-1 home win over Hellas Verona to move up to seventh place, nine points off third.
Atalanta BC moved five points clear of Chievo in the relegation zone after a 2-1 home win over Gianfranco Zola’s on-form Cagliari, with Mauricio Pinillo hitting an injury-time winner.
Earlier, Inter’s Champions League qualification hopes were kept in check by a 3-1 defeat away to US Sassuolo when both sides finished with 10 men.
Japanese couple Rikiya and Ayumi Kataoka had their honeymoon wrecked by the COVID-19 pandemic, but their resourcefulness in enforced exile in Cape Verde has won them appointments as ambassadors for its Olympic team. The Kataokas had completed a third of their round-the-world trip when a suspension in long-haul flights stranded them for five months in the archipelago of 10 tiny islands off the coast of West Africa. Unable to resume their journey to Europe and then home to Japan, and unwilling to head to the African mainland, where virus cases are spiking, they had to trade their skills with domestic businesses to
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