Draw woes continue for Roma with Juve nine clear
Roma`s title hopes took a further dive on Sunday after they were held to their sixth Serie A draw in seven games, leaving Juventus nine points clear at the top of the table.
Roma`s visit to Verona ended 1-1, despite talismanic captain Francesco Totti giving them a first-half lead with his 240th league goal.
Elsewhere, ailing AC Milan got back to winning ways with a precious 2-0 home win over Cesena, while Lazio climbed up to fourth thanks to Antonio Candreva`s superb second-half winner in a 2-1 home defeat of Palermo.
Massimo Maccarone hit a brace of goals, one in each half, to send Empoli on their way to a 3-0 home win over Chievo, while the Parma v Udinese fixture was postponed as the cash-strapped hosts, on the verge of bankruptcy, had no money to pay stadium stewards.
Champions Juventus took their lead over Roma to 10 points on Friday, a 2-1 win over Atalanta giving the Bianconeri a boost ahead of Tuesday`s Champions League last 16 meeting with Borussia Dortmund.
It left Roma under the cosh on what was always going to be a difficult fixture at Verona`s Bentegodi stadium and although the visitors showed plenty of enterprise, Rudi Garcia`s men are still struggling to produce a match-winner.
Radja Nainggolan forced Francesco Benussi down low to his right to block his dipping drive from just outside the area in the opening 10 minutes, and Adem Ljajic then fired a daisycutter straight to the `keeper from Miralem Pjanic`s low free kick on the right.
Francesco Totti, making his return after a spell out due to `flu, looked under par during the opening exchanges.
But he eclipsed his mediocre start with a superbly-struck dipping shot from 30 metres out which beat Benussi at his near post in the 26th minute.
It was Totti`s 240th goal in Serie A but still leaves him 36 short of the all-time record held by Silvio Piola.
Barely 10 minutes later Verona were back on level terms when Bosko Jankovic rose above makeshift defender Alessandro Florenzi to meet a corner from the left with a header which came off the legs of Seydou Keita before wrong-footing Morgan De Sanctis.Florenzi was forced off moments later with an injury knock and replaced by Greek defender Vasilis Torosidis, while Ljajic narrowly failed to give the visitors a half-time lead when his free kick smacked off the crossbar.
Milan welcomed Cesena to the San Siro looking for only their third win in 10 games and Giacomo Bonaventura broke the deadlock on 22 minutes with a low angled strike that beat Nicola Leali at his far post.
Milan had Christian Abbiati to thank for keeping a clean sheet when the `keeper produced a great one-handed save in first-half injury-time from Giuseppe de Feudis`s superb first-time effort from a cross swung in from the right.
But the hosts made sure of the win when Giampaolo Pazzini came off the bench to fire a 90th minute second goal past Leali from the penalty spot after Carlos Carbonera was adjudged to have pushed Luca Antonelli.
At the Stadio Olimpico, Lazio were stunned in the 26th minute when Paulo Dybala was sent through to beat Federico Marchetti at the `keeper`s far post after Mauricio was dispossessed to the left of the area.
Lazio were back on level terms barely seven minutes later when skipper Stefano Mauri bundled home from close range.
And the hosts secured the points on 78 minutes when Candreva worked his way around two players to the left of goal before firing past Sorrentino and into the far top corner.
Lazio moved up to fourth, 17 points behind Juventus and only two behind Napoli in the third and last Champions League qualifying spot, although they will be overtaken by Fiorentina if they account for Torino in Sunday`s late game.
On Monday Napoli can pull to within three points of Roma with a home win against Sassuolo, while Cagliari, third-from-bottom, host Inter Milan.