- Associated Press - Saturday, December 20, 2014

Roma was held to a goalless draw at home by 10-man AC Milan as its Serie A title ambition took a blow in the final round of the year on Saturday.

The result meant Juventus will spend the winter break three points clear of Roma after the league leader beat Cagliari 3-1 on Thursday.

Milan remained seventh ahead of the rest of the weekend’s fixtures, but was provisionally two points behind third-place Napoli in their duel for the final Champions League spot.

Milan started the brighter but it was Roma which had the better opportunities, and Rudi Garcia’s men should have won the match after Pablo Armero was sent off following a second yellow card.

Garcia was also left fuming after Roma was denied a penalty for handball by Milan midfielder Nigel de Jong.

“It’s two points lost,” Garcia said. “We had chances but we lacked creativity in the absence of (Miralem) Pjanic. It also needs to be said that there was a clear handball in their area. The referees behind the goal need to take responsibility, or we shouldn’t have them anymore.

“Nevertheless, we could have done better. But we were faced with an ultra defensive Milan side.”

Earlier, a stoppage-time equalizer saw relegation-threatened Cesena rescue a 1-1 draw at Sassuolo.

Milan almost took the lead with less than two minutes on the clock as Roma goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis was called into action immediately to first parry Keisuke Honda’s strike, and then block Andrea Poli’s follow-up.

Roma should have broken the dealdock on the half hour mark following a great run from Gervinho through the Milan defense before being denied by Diego Lopez.

There was controversy moments later as Gervinho’s header went wide but the ball appeared to hit the hand of De Jong, who had jumped with his arm raised in the air. Roma appealed furiously for a penalty.

Philippe Mexes almost scored a screamer from 40 yards but De Sanctis pulled off an equally fantastic save to fingertip it over the bar.

Tension started to mount at the Stadio Olimpico and Armero was sent off, although referee Nicola Rizzoli took a long time to pull out his book following the handling offence, and did so only after fierce Roma protests.

Gervinho almost snatched a win for Roma after another mazy run through the Milan defense in stoppage time but Lopez pulled off a stunning save.

There was also controversy in the earlier game, which was played in thick fog.

Simone Zaza scored from the spot in the 76th minute after Sassuolo was awarded an extremely soft penalty for contact by Hordur Magnusson on Sime Vrsaljko.

Ze Eduardo leveled with his first Serie A goal, heading in Gregoire Defrel’s cross.

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