Cristiano Ronaldo on Sunday struck twice as Juventus beat Parma 2-1 to pull four points clear of Inter at the top of Serie A.
Inter’s title push hit another stumbling block after a 1-1 draw at lowly US Lecce, while Ante Rebic fired city rivals AC Milan to a last-gasp 3-2 win over Udinese.
Ronaldo broke through just before halftime to score in a seventh consecutive league game, then almost set up a second for Aaron Ramsey, but the Wales international rattled the post.
Andreas Cornelius scored with a towering header to get seventh-placed Parma back level 10 minutes after the break, but the visitors hardly had time to celebrate before Ronaldo broke through again after latching onto a Paulo Dybala cross for his 11th goal in seven games to bring his league tally this season to 16.
“It was important that we win tonight,” Ronaldo said. “[SS] Lazio won, Inter drew, so it was important to take advantage. Parma pushed forward in the end, we got a little nervous, but we managed to get the result.”
The eight-time reigning champions have a four-point cushion on Inter, who have won only two of their past six league games and are now also under threat from Lazio, who are just two points behind with a game in hand after hammering UC Sampdoria 5-1 on Saturday.
Antonio Conte’s side had looked set to take maximum points from his hometown team, where he started his career in the 1980s, when Alessandro Bastoni headed the away side in front with 18 minutes remaining, but Marco Mancosu grabbed a precious point for the southerners five minutes later.
“For me there’s always great emotion,” Conte said of his return to Lecce. “Coming back to the Stadio Via del Mare means going back 30, 35 years. I spent my childhood as a ball boy here. There will always be this attachment, but I am a professional and I try to do this job better.”
Lecce — just one point above the relegation zone — were coming off a four-match losing streak, but had held Juventus by the same scoreline back in October last year.
“Congratulations to them, even if conceding this goal leaves a bitter taste in the mouth,” Conte added.
Croatian forward Rebic hit a brace, including the stoppage-time winner against Udinese that snatched a dramatic win that gave troubled AC Milan back-to-back league victories, moving them up to eighth, two points from the UEFA Europa League spots.
Star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic got his first start at the San Siro after scoring the previous weekend at Cagliari.
The 38-year-old Swede did not get to celebrate in front of the home crowd, but he has provided a confidence-boost for the seven-time European champions, who have taken seven points in three matches since his return.
“The arrival of Ibrahimovic has given us even more depth and conviction, which has helped us,” Milan coach Stefano Pioli said.
Former Liverpool and Chelsea attacker Fabio Borini, who left Milan on Tuesday last week, scored his first goal on his debut for new club Hellas Verona in a 1-1 draw at Bologna.
AS Roma bounced back from back-to-back league defeats with a 3-1 win over struggling Genoa that put them back in the top four, three points in front of fifth-placed Atalanta BC ahead of their match against SPAL yesterday.
Cengiz Under opened the scoring after just five minutes and the match looked as good as won a minute before halftime when a cross from Leonardo Spinazzola bounced in off Genoa’s David Biraschi.
Former Lazio striker Goran Pandev quickly pulled a goal back, but Edin Dzeko had the last word with 16 minutes to go, pouncing on a error by goalkeeper Mattia Perin.
Mario Balotelli came on late for lowly Brescia and was sent off just seven minutes later in a 2-2 draw against sixth-placed Cagliari.
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