Roma, Napoli, Lazio keep pressure on champions


Milan (AFP) – Radja Nainggolan hit a first-half winner as Roma won 1-0 at Udinese to close the gap on leaders Juventus to a single point in Serie A on Sunday.

Juventus, bidding for a record sixth straight league title can restore their four-point lead if they beat Fiorentina away in Sunday’s late game.

But the Old Lady of Turin was given another reminder of potential obstacles on the way to the Serie A title with Roma, Napoli, Lazio and Inter all winning.

Roma travelled to Udinese looking to make it three wins on the trot having suffered their last reverse in a 1-0 defeat at Juventus last month.

After just 12 minutes Nainggolan turned on Kevin Strootman’s chip from deep in midfield to beat Orestis Karnezis with a right-footed volley from eight yards.

Luciano Spalletti’s men should have doubled their lead when a penalty was awarded minutes later for handball in the area, but a nervous-looking striker Edin Dzeko ballooned his effort over.

Juventus are now just a point ahead of Roma although the Turin giants have a game in hand following Italian Super Cup commitments last month. In Doha, the champions were beaten on penalties by AC Milan. 

Napoli’s last league defeat also came at Juventus, at the end of October, but at home to league strugglers Pescara the Azzurri were kept scoreless until Lorenzo Tonelli, Marek Hamsik and Dries Mertens hit one apiece in a fruitful second half. 

Tonelli got the hosts off the mark with his second goal in as many games when he rose to meet Jorginho’s free kick from the left to send a bouncing header past Albano Bizarri in the Pescara net.

Napoli doubled their lead moments later, Hamsik volleying Piotr Zielinski’s long ball past Bizzarri from a tigh angle.

A curling drive from Lorenzo Insigne deflected off target and Bizzarri did well to fingertip Jorginho’s screamer on to the crossbar from the corner.

But the ‘keeper was left helpless in the dying minutes when Mertens, after winning back possession in deep, completd a one-two with Allan to flick past the ‘keeper from close range to claim his 12th goal of the campaign.

Lazio remain fourth, at five points behind Juventus, after Ciro Immobile’s second-half penalty secured the points in a 2-1 win over Atalanta.

Former Lazio ‘keeper Etrit Berisha was out to make a brave stop from the feet of Immobile in the early stages but Atalanta were first off the mark, Andrea Petagna beating Federico Marchetti with a volley from Remo Freuler’s cross on 21 minutes.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic rose to meet a free kick at the back post to head Lazio’s leveller on the stroke of half-time.

Milinkovic-Savic was in the thick of the action again just after the hour, the Serbian prompting Berisha out to close him down and winning a penalty when the ‘keeper failed to make contact with the ball.

Immobile stepped up to send the ‘keeper the wrong way with his 11th league goal of the season.

AC Milan, in fifth at nine points adrift, are away to Torino on Monday. Inter Milan moved up to sixth with a 3-1 win over Chievo on Saturday when Mauro Icardi hit the opener to stretch his league-leading goals tally to 15 for the season.

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