- Associated Press - Sunday, March 13, 2016

MILAN (AP) - Napoli cut the gap to Serie A leader Juventus back to three points with a 1-0 win at relegation-threatened Palermo on Sunday, while Roma kept up the pressure on the top two by beating Udinese 2-1.

Gonzalo Higuain converted a penalty for Napoli - his 27th league goal of the season - to ensure his side kept pace with Juventus, which beat Sassuolo 1-0 on Friday.

“We have a point more than Napoli had in the whole of last season and that fills us with pride,” Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri said. “Some say we’ve dropped a bit, but we have more points this half of the season than we had after the same amount of games in the first half.

“With Juve, we’re talking about a team which has won 18 of its past 19 matches… We’re happy to be the team that is keeping alive the title chase. But if they continue at this level, we have no chance whatsoever.”

Roma is third, five points behind Napoli, but leading the chase for the final Champions League spot after bouncing back from elimination from this season’s competition by recording an eighth successive league victory.

Fiorentina - which lost 4-1 to Roma last weekend - was held to a 1-1 draw by bottom club Hellas Verona. Mauro Zarate’s deflected goal looked to have given Fiorentina the win but Eros Pisano was left unmarked to head in a corner four minutes from time.

Fiorentina is now five points further back, in fourth, only above Inter Milan thanks to having won both matches between the two teams.

“It’s a difficult period,” Fiorentina coach Paulo Sousa said. “We deserved the boos at the end, we were far from how we usually play. They chose the opportunity to reproach our way of playing and they did it at the end of the match.”

AC Milan remains sixth after it drew 0-0 at Chievo Verona.

At the other end of the table, Carpi beat Frosinone 2-1 in a relegation six-pointer. Carpi moved a point behind Frosinone and provisionally two behind Palermo, which occupies the last safe spot. Verona is eight points from safety.

Also, Genoa fought back from two goals down to beat Torino 3-2. Former Torino striker Alessio Cerci converted two penalties but did not celebrate against his old side.

Miroslav Klose scored twice as Lazio beat Atalanta 2-0.

Goals aplenty were expected in Sicily as Palermo had the second worst defense in the league, while Napoli had the second best attack.

However, Napoli looked sluggish up front and only broke the deadlock thanks to a soft penalty, which Higuain converted in the 23rd minute after a tussle between Sinisa Andelkovic and Raul Albiol.

It was a losing debut for Palermo coach Walter Novellino, who replaced Giuseppe Iachini last week, becoming the club’s eighth coach of the season - including both Iachini’s spells.

Palermo has had more coaches this season than wins.

Earlier, Edin Dzeko - who has come in for a lot of criticism of late - fired Roma in front in the 15th minute after a deft through ball from Mohamed Salah.

Udinese came out fighting after the break and halftime substitute Duvan Zapata headed off the post moments after the restart.

Roma thought it had sealed the result in the 74th when Alessandro Florenzi showed great control to flick a chipped Miralem Pjanic pass round a Udinese defender and fire into the far bottom corner.

However, Bruno Fernandes scored to set up a nervy final five minutes for Roma.

There were ugly scenes at the final whistle as Udinese fans tried to invade the pitch in protest at the team’s poor run. The players tried to calm them down and threw their shirts into the crowd, but they were thrown back at them.


This story has been corrected to show that Roma beat Udinese 2-1, not 2-0 and that Fiorentina is five points behind Roma, and above Inter Milan.

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