Lazio close gap as plucky Parma hold Juve

Lazio close gap as plucky Parma hold Juve
Lazio players celebrate after Sergio Floccari scored

Lazio players celebrate after Sergio Floccari scored

MILAN, Italy  ●   A 2-0 home win over Atalanta boosted Lazio’s Serie A title ambitions after champions and leaders Juventus were held to a 1-1 draw away to Parma on Sunday.

Lazio began the second half of the season trailing Juve by five points but sealed their 13th win of the campaign thanks to goals from Sergio Floccari and a Davide Brivio own goal.

With Juve settling for a share of the spoils after Nicola Sansone levelled Jonathan Biabiany’s earlier own goal, it left Vladimir Petkovic’s side just three points adrift in second with a two-point lead on Napoli.

Inter Milan had leapfrogged Napoli into third  thanks to a 2-0 home win over Pescara on Saturday, but Napoli re-established order with a convincing 3-0 home win over Palermo.

Inter now sit fourth, seven points behind Juventus but three clear of Fiorentina after La Viola suffered a shock 3-1 defeat at the hands of on-form Udinese.

A week on from their 3-0 home rout over Inter, Antonio Di Natale scored his second consecutive league brace as Udinese claimed their seventh win of the campaign to move one place up to eighth.

AC Milan, meanwhile, were left in seventh place after escaping from Sampdoria with a scoreless draw instead of claiming the win that would have allowed them to leapfrog Roma into sixth.

The Rossoneri struggled to get into their stride at the Luigi Ferraris stadium, with the club’s top scorer, Stephan El Shaarawy replaced by Robinho halfway through the second period.

Elsewhere, Cagliari moved out of the bottom three at the expense of Genoa after sealing a 2-1 win over the visitors thanks to Daniele Conti’s 82nd-minute winner.

Only days ago Petkovic had claimed Juve already have one hand on the title, but Lazio are now the champions’ closest challengers.

“Our win was deserved, although we played far better in the second half than in the first,” said Petkovic. “But if we want to have higher ambitions, we need to be more constant throughout.”

After their shock home defeat to Pescara last week, Fiorentina were there for the taking by a Udinese side which is currently on fire.

Fiorentina took the lead at the Stadio Friuli when Gonzalo Rodriguez rose above the defence to smash a header off the crossbar and into the net via the head of ‘keeper Zeljko Brkic.

But Di Natale levelled from the spot for the hosts and then broke through the Viola defence to beat Norberto Neto for a 14th league goal which put him second behind Napoli’s Edinson Cavani’s Serie A-leading tally of 16.

Udinese confirmed their superiority barely a minute later when Colombian striker Luis Muriel beat Neto with a right-foot strike.

Fiorentina host Roma in an Italian Cup quarter-final in midweek, and despite defeat coach Vincenzo Montella said: “The team played well but we were punished by the opportunities Udinese had.”

At Parma, both sides missed scoring chances before Pirlo’s freekick from just outside the area took a deflection off the head of Biabiany and wrong-footed ‘keeper Antonio Mirante in the 52nd minute.

But a dummy blunder by Mirko Vucinic gave Parma the chance to level, Argentine defender Gabriel Paletta pouncing to send Nicola Sansone through to outpace Juve defender Martin Caceres before beating Gianluigi Buffon with a low, well-placed strike.

Juve coach Antonio Conte later admitted: “On Parma’s goal, I take the blame. I called for Vucinic to dummy, but Paletta is good at anticipating and he managed to send the ball through to Sansone.”

In Naples, Christian Maggio broke the deadlock for the hosts after heading home Marek Hamsik’s cross from the left past Samir Ujkani on the half hour.

Swiss midfielder Gokhan Inler made it two when he surged forward and sidestepped the Palermo defence before sending his shot just under the crossbar and into the net.

Lorenzo Insigne put the match beyond all reach in the 72nd minute when he slammed Inler’s cut-back from the goalline into the roof of the net from the edge of the area.

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