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Verona hold Roma, Lazio take fourth

Roma-fansRoma drifted even further behind leaders Juventus in the Italian Serie A title race after being held to a 1-1 draw at Hellas Verona. The Giallorossi needed to respond to Juve’s victory over Atalanta and Francesco Totti put them on the right track with a 26th-minute opener at the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi.

But Bosko Jankovic struck for Hellas seven minutes before the break to earn the hosts a share of the spoils, while leaving Roma nine points off the pace in their quest for the Scudetto. The Giallorossi have drawn six of their last seven games and next week’s meeting with Juve in Rome will be critical to their chances of catching the Turin giants.

Lazio reached fourth place by coming from behind to defeat Palermo 2-1 in the capital. The prolific Paulo Dybala fired surprise packages Palermo ahead midway through the first half before Stefano Mauri levelled to keep it interesting heading into half-time.

Italy midfielder Antonio Candreva scored the winner in the 78th minute – injuring himself in the process – and Lazio duly leapfrogged Fiorentina to claim the final automatic European berth. Palermo striker Edgar Barreto was sent off in the 90th minute.

AC Milan returned to the top half after goals from Giacomo Bonaventura and substitute Giampaolo Pazzini secured a 2-0 home victory over Cesena. Bonaventura struck midway through the first half at San Siro and Pazzini converted a late penalty to alleviate some of the pressure mounting on head coach Filippo Inzaghi.

But the Rossoneri still have plenty to prove sitting in a distant eighth place, where they are seven points off the European pace. Cesena remained in 19th and are seven points from safety.

Also living with the threat of relegation are Chievo, who slumped to a resounding 3-0 loss at Empoli. Daniele Rugani opened the scoring for the Tuscans, with veteran striker Massimo Maccarone bagging a second-half brace to boost his team up to 14th in the standings.

Fiorentina missed the chance to reclaim fourth place from Lazio as ninth-placed Torino forced a 1-1 draw at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. Khouma Babacar missed an early penalty for La Viola but on-loan Chelsea winger Mohamed Salah notched what appeared to be a winner for the hosts in the 85th minute.

Yet Torino midfielder Giuseppe Vives, who was lucky to still be on the pitch following a contentious first-half challenge, popped up to force the issue only two minutes later.

Parma’s home meeting with Udinese was postponed indefinitely as the Ducale club were unable to pay stewards and matchday staff due to an ever-worsening financial crisis at the Stadio Ennio Tardini.