Roma fire blanks as Milan, Lazio move up

Milan (AFP) – Stephan El Shaarawy and Edin Dzeko fired blanks as Roma were held to a scoreless draw at Empoli on Sunday, leaving champions Juventus four points clear at the top of Serie A.

Roma travelled to the Castellani stadium looking to close the gap on a Juventus side which secured a 2-1 win over title rivals Napoli on Saturday when former Azzurri striker Gonzalo Higuain hit the winner in Turin.

But Luciano Spalletti’s men were frustrated throughout by an astute Empoli defence, and ‘keeper Lukasz Skorupski pulled off a series of superb saves to help claim a share of the points for the hosts.

Roma’s first scoreless stalemate of the season left them in second place at four points behind Juventus, who are aiming for a record sixth consecutive title this season. 

Midfielder Daniele De Rossi admitted Skorupski, who made five appearances for Roma in 2013 before moving to Empoli, and Empoli’s defence had made the difference.

“It would be a mistake for any side to come here and think they can simply score by shooting once they get into the area,” De Rossi told Sky Sport.

“Empoli defend very well. We had to settle for the draw but we accept it and hopefully we’ll do better.

“Hats off to our ex-teammate (Skorupski).” 

Napoli’s defeat left them seven points adrift and Maurizio Sarri’s men dropped to fifth place after AC Milan and Lazio held on against Pescara and Sassuolo respectively to move up to third and fourth. 

A 3-0 defeat to Genoa in midweek meant Milan were looking to get back to winning ways against league newcomers Pescara.

It took the hosts until four minutes after the restart to break the deadlock at the San Siro, but Giacomo Bonaventura’s 49th minute free kick was worth the wait.

He rightly anticipated several players in the Pescara defensive wall jumping to block a high shot, and he simply rolled the ball under their feet and past rooted ‘keeper Albano Bizzarri to score his second league goal of the season.

Milan coach Vincenzo Montella replaced inefficient striker Carlos Bacca six minutes from the end, and the Colombian was unhappy at being replaced by Luiz Adriano.

The hosts went on to endure a tight finish that saw Pescara pour forward in a bid for a late equaliser after seven minutes of extra time were added on.

“That was a great victory, but a very difficult match. We knew it would be like that,” Montella told Sky Sport.

“Credit to Pescara, they created a lot of problems for us.”

– Crotone finally win –

Lazio broke the deadlock in controversial fashion at the Stadio Olimpico, Senad Lulic appearing slightly offside when Keita Balde’s cross into the box came off goalkeeper Andrea Consigli and then off the defender before landing in the net.

But the goal stood and minutes later Lazio doubled their lead when Ciro Immobile smashed a volley past Consigli off a Sassuolo leg.

Frenchman Gregoire Defrel hit a consolation goal just before the hour but Lazio held on for a sixth win of the season to stay unbeaten since a 2-0 loss to Milan last month.

“The lads did great, especially against a side that came with a much different game plan to what we’re used to seeing,” said Lazio coach Simeone Inzaghi.

“But we absolutely deserved to win.”

Inter Milan, sitting mid-table and 13 points adrift of top spot, will look to get back into contention when they face Sampdoria away in Sunday’s late game.

Crotone claimed their first Serie A win after a first-half penalty from Marcello Trotta and an injury-time second from Diego Falcinelli secured a 2-0 home win over Chievo.

But Crotone remain bottom with just five points.

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