Milan (AFP) – Ciro Immobile and Carlos Bacca hit spot-kicks for Lazio and AC Milan respectively on Sunday in key wins that boosted the Serie A sides’ hopes of European football next season.
Table-toppers Juventus took their lead over Roma to 10 points with a comfortable win over Empoli on Saturday, and the gap will remain if Roma suffer defeat at Inter Milan later Sunday.
With third-placed Napoli now 12 points in arrears after a shock 2-0 defeat to Atalanta, the race for a top-three finish is back on.
Atalanta (three points off third), Lazio (four), Inter (six) and AC Milan (seven) are all within reach, but it took a pair of spot-kicks for Lazio and AC Milan to keep their hopes alive.
Lazio welcomed Udinese protecting a three-game unbeaten run but it took Immobile’s second-half penalty to secure the points at the Stadio Olimpico after Iraqi defender Kadhim Ali Adnan was deemed to have handled.
The 1-0 win kept Lazio fifth, 16 points behind runaway leaders Juventus, and just four behind third-placed Napoli.
“After Atalanta’s win at Napoli, it’s given the table a different look,” Immobile told Premium Sport.
“We’re up there as well now, and we’ll try to capitalise from here on in. We have a few key games coming up, so we have to stay focused if we want Europe.”
AC Milan’s Champions League hopes are probably over following a series of recent setbacks, and they showed little improvement in a cagey performance away to Sassuolo.
Bacca’s 22nd minute penalty ended a three-game victory famine at the Mapei Stadium for Vincenzo Montella’s men.
After earning an early caution from referee Gianpaolo Calvarese for simulation, Domenico Berardi missed the spot-kick for Sassuolo after Juraj Kucka hauled down Alfred Duncan minutes later.
Ten minutes later the hosts suffered another blow when Calvarese awarded Milan a penalty after Andrea Bertolacci came down under a soft challenge.
Bacca slid on his way to mis-hitting his effort, which flew over the body of Andrea Consigli and into the net, prompting vociferous protests from Sassuolo that the Colombian had made contact twice with the ball.
Sassuolo saw valid claims for a penalty waved away on the hour after Gabriel Paletta came in late with a challenge that sent Matteo Politano sprawling to the turf.
“They shouldn’t have had a penalty, and we should have had three,” Sassuolo forward Alberto Aquilani told Mediaset Premium.