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Roma close gap on Juventus

Captain Francesco Totti scored late from the spot to cap a crucial 3-1 win for Roma away to Verona which closed the gap on leaders Juventus to six points on Sunday.

Elsewhere, Giampaolo Pazzini scored a late winner for AC Milan in a precious 2-1 win away to Cagliari, while city rivals Inter were held to a scoreless draw at home by basement side Catania.

Livorno boosted their relegation battle with a 3-1 home win over Sassuolo, while at the other end of the table Torino and Parma both moved up one place to sixth and seventh with 1-0 wins over Atalanta and Udinese respectively.

Juventus had to settle for a share of the points in a 1-1 draw away to Lazio on Saturday when goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was sent off and left the champions with ten men for much of their encounter at the Olympic Stadium.

Napoli, in third, were also held 1-1 by visitors Chievo and are 12 points adrift of Juventus.

Roma landed a blow on Juventus with a 1-0 win in the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia in midweek – a morale boost after they lost 3-0 to the same opponents earlier this month in their Italian Serie A clash.

Roma were by far the more creative side against Verona and after spurning several chances made the breakthrough in first-half injury time when Gervinho powered down the left and pulled back for Adem Ljajic to tap home from close range.

Verona levelled minutes after the restart when Emil Hallfredsson finished off the good work of Juan Iturbe to beat Morgan De Sanctis with a powerful drive.

But Roma pulled in front on the hour thanks to a superb Gervinho strike from just inside the area and the game turned permanently in the visitors’ favour when late substitute Totti fired home from the spot to secure Roma’s third consecutive win since the away defeat to Juve earlier this month.

Milan march on
Milan, meanwhile, repaid Clarence Seedorf’s belief in the struggling Serie A giants with two late goals to hand the Dutchman his second win in as many league games.

Having been sent crashing out of the Coppa Italia quarter-finals by Udinese in midweek, Milan were staring at a costly league defeat after struggling to level Marco Sau’s 28th-minute opener.

However Mario Balotelli launched the fightback with a superb goal from a free kick on 87 minutes and two minutes later Pazzini, who replaced Robinho on the hour, fired home a tricky volley from a corner.

Now ninth with a five-point deficit to fifth-placed Inter, Milan’s bid for a place in Europe has been given a huge boost and Pazzini, who has lingered on the injury sidelines for much of the past nine months, could not hide his joy.

In Sunday’s late match, Alberto Aquilani scored a hat-trick but his Fiorentina team were still held to a 3-3 draw by visitors Genoa as La Viola wasted an opportunity to close within a point of third-placed Napoli.

Genoa’s last Serie A victory at the Stadio Franchi was back in March 1977.