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Tevez strikes twice, Napoli fire four

A brace from Carlos Tevez in a cagey 2-1 win over ten-man Parma restored Juventus’s 14-point lead over Roma on Wednesday and kept the champions on track for a third consecutive Serie A title.

Roma had cut the gap on Tuesday with a last-minute 2-1 win at home to Torino. But any expectations Juventus would drop points and hand Rudi Garcia’s team hopes of a title slip-up were effectively over by the 65th minute in Turin, when Parma, having reduced the arrears thanks to Cristian Molinaro’s half-volley, were reduced to ten men when Amauri saw red for fouling defender Giorgio Chiellini.

Roberto Donadoni’s visitors pushed the champions all the way but Juve held on for a 26th win which also kept them on track to become the first Serie A champions with at least 100 points from the season.

While Roma tightened their grip on second place, Napoli stayed in the hunt for the second automatic UEFA Champions League qualifying spot with a 4-2 win away to Catania. Napoli coach Rafael Benitez left Gokhan Inler, Goran Pandev and Gonzalo Higuin on the bench for the trip to Sicily, where the hosts were looking for only their second win over their rivals in their last ten league encounters.

Striker Duvan Zapata honoured his rare start, in place of Higuain, by scoring a brace, with Napoli’s other goals coming from Jose Callejon and Brazilian defender Henrique. Marek Hamsik delivered a low cross for Zapata to tap-in at the back post on 16 minutes and Napoli were 2-0 up thanks to Callejon, in somewhat comical fashion, on 25 minutes.

The Spaniard pounced on a loose ball following a clash between ‘keeper Mariano Andujar and Slovakian defender Norbert Gyoember to slot the ball home for Napoli’s second. Henrique also made the most of a rare start to score Napoli’s third before the half-hour when he spectacularly half-volleyed Hamsik’s pass over Andujar from a tight angle.

Barely two minutes later Napoli appeared to have the points in the bag when a long cross came off Zapata’s back and after a one-two with Hamsik he slammed a low drive just past Andujar. Catania, to their credit, fought back with goals from Fabian Monzon and Gyomber keeping the visitors on their toes. However Benitez’s men held on to claim an 18th win which kept them third but still six points off Roma, who also have a game in hand.

Napoli were handed an unexpected favour when Phillipe Mexes and Mario Balotelli, from a free kick, scored one apiece in a shock 2-0 win away to Fiorentina to boost Milan’s flagging campaign. Fiorentina are also chasing the third and final Champions League qualifying spot and although still fourth Vincenzo Montella’s men are now 10 points adrift of Napoli.

Elsewhere, Atalanta’s 2-0 win over relegation-threatened Livorno, coupled with Lazio’s shock 2-0 defeat away to Genoa, pushed the Bergamo-based side up to seventh and only four points off the first Europa League qualifying place held by fifth-placed Inter, who are in action against Udinese Thursday.

Verona slipped further out of UEFA Europa League contention with a 1-0 defeat away to Cagliari, a result which helped push Sampdoria, who snatched a 2-1 win away to struggling Sassuolo, up to ninth place.