Serie A: Juventus spurn chance for nine-point lead

Serie A: Juventus spurn chance for nine-point lead

Juventus spurned the chance to go nine points clear of title challengers Roma as Napoli crept closer to second place and AC Milan got back on winning terms in Serie A on Sunday.

On a day of several surprises in Italy`s top flight, Juve failed to capitalise after Roma`s fourth consecutive league draw, the champions settling for a point in a scoreless draw at the Friuli Stadium which saw Udinese end a six-game losing streak to the Turin giants.

Juve are now seven points in front of Roma but coach Massimiliano Allegri admitted they were ultimately lucky to escape with a point.

"In the first half we played badly... there was improvement in the second half but it wasn`t easy because Udinese were playing with a lot of intensity," Allegri told Sky Sport.

"It was a fair result because we also risked losing this game."

In Sunday`s late game, on-loan Roma striker Mattia Destro made his debut for AC Milan as Filippo Inzaghi`s strugglers beat Parma 3-1 to end a five-game winless streak.

Jeremy Menez hit a brace for the hosts, including a first-half penalty, either side of a close-range strike by former Milan midfielder Antonio Nocerino in the 24th minute.

Menez then turned on the style to set up 2006 World Cup winner Cristian Zaccardo to slam home Milan`s third in the 76th minute.

Milan moved four places up to eighth to sit 21 points behind Juventus and 10 behind Napoli in the third and last Champions League qualifying spot.

Rafael Benitez`s Napoli held on for a precious 2-1 win at Chievo to finish the weekend as the only top-five side to take all three points and close the gap on stuttering Roma, who were held 1-1 by Empoli.

Manolo Gabbiadini helped give the visitors an 18th minute lead when his shot came off the head of Bostjan Cesar in comical fashion to finish in the back of the net.

After Miguel Britos scored an own goal for Napoli, Gabbiadini rescued the points with a 62nd minute winner.

"It`s our third win in a row, the team is growing in confidence," said Benitez. "But we have to keep on focusing on just one game at a time and then see where it takes us."

Both Sampdoria and Lazio saw their respective bids for a third-place finish dented by respective defeats to Torino and Cesena.

Samuel Eto`o`s debut for Sampdoria, the Cameroonian replacing Eder on 71 minutes, ended in a chastening 5-1 defeat away to Torino, with former Juventus striker Fabio Quagliarella notably hitting a hat-trick to send Giampiero Ventura`s side up to ninth in the table.

Humbled Sampdoria coach Sinisa Mihajlovic told Sky: "I want to say sorry to the fans, I hold my hands up for this terrible performance today.

"I can only take my hat off to Ventura and to his team. They were superior on all fronts."

Lazio outclassed Milan 2-1 last week but were humbled by league strugglers Cesena 2-1, with Danilo notably scoring acomical own goal for Stefano Pioli`s men before Miroslav Klose slammed home a late consolation.

Elsewhere, Paulo Dybala and Andrea Belotti struck one apiece in either half to secure a 2-1 home win over Verona to move up to seventh place, nine points off third.

Atalanta moved five points clear of Chievo in the relegation zone thanks to a 2-1 home win over Gianfranco Zola`s on-form Cagliari, with Mauricio Pinillo hitting an injury-time winner.

Earlier, Inter Milan`s Champions League qualification hopes were kept in check by a 3-1 defeat away to Sassuolo when both sides finished with 10 men.

Frustrated Inter coach Roberto Mancini told Inter Channel: "It`s clear we`re making stupid errors.

"We let them score two great goals, but we could have avoided at least the first one. We have to knuckle down. I`m sorry for the lads and the fans but we`ll do everything to get out of this."