Serie A: Juve draw for first time this season, title lead still grows
MILAN (AP) There is still a glimmer of hope for Roma and Napoli.
Juventus was prevented from going 10 points clear in Serie A as a lethargic performance saw the leaders held 1-1 at Udinese on Sunday. It was Juve’s first draw in the league this season.
Leonardo Bonucci was both hero and villain as he was outmuscled for Duvan Zapata’s opener but leveled on the hour.
Juventus is eight points clear of second-placed Roma and 10 ahead of Napoli with 11 rounds remaining.
“We gained a point on Roma,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “We were coming from a very hard period, where we played very important matches and today we faced a Udinese side which deserved to draw.
“When you can’t win certain matches, you mustn’t lose them ... it’s an important point. And even with a win, the title race wouldn’t have been over.”
After Napoli won 2-1 at Roma on Saturday, Juventus knew it could take a big step toward an unprecedented sixth successive title.
Udinese had picked up only one point from its previous four matches, scoring just one goal. But it took the lead eight minutes from halftime as Zapata held off Bonucci and beat Gianluigi Buffon at the near post.
Juventus struggled to create real opportunities but leveled when Bonucci headed in Paulo Dybala’s free kick.
Udinese coach Luigi Delneri was dismissed immediately after for dissent.
The home side almost restored its lead two minutes later but Danilo’s header came off the base of the left post, although it looked as if Buffon had it covered.
Ciro Immobile scored twice as Lazio maintained its late push for a Champions League spot.
Immobile had been on target in four of his last five matches and he took just nine minutes to open the scoring, heading in Senad Lulic’s cross.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic put in another impressive performance and the 22-year-old set up Lazio’s second with a delightful through ball to release Immobile for his 16th goal of the season.
Lazio moved fourth, four points behind Napoli.
Atalanta failed to keep up the pressure in the race for a Champions League spot as it was kept at bay by Fiorentina goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s side had emerged as surprise contenders for a top-three finish after beating Napoli last weekend but it slipped five points below the Champions League qualifying spots.
Atalanta laid siege to the goal but could not find a way through due to a combination of wayward finishing and excellent saves by Tatarusanu. He also somehow managed to claw Andrea Petagna’s effort off the line and out off the upright late on.
Ever Banega made the most of a rare start as he scored one goal and set up another to help Inter Milan comfortably beat Cagliari and remain six points behind Napoli.
Ivan Perisic scored twice as Inter bounced back from last week’s 3-1 defeat at home to Roma.
“We got what we wanted, to react at the right moment and in the best way possible after the defeat to Roma,” Perisic said. “We still believe in third place.
“Today we showed we are on the right path. We will give our utmost until the end.”
Inter broke the deadlock in the 36th when Ivan Perisic controlled Banega’s chipped pass with his right foot and hit it past Gabriel with his left.
Banega doubled Inter’s lead three minutes later with a free kick into the top left corner.
Cagliari got back into it shortly after. Samir Handanovic did well to keep out David Di Gennaro’s free kick but the ball was crossed back in for Marco Borriello to head home.
Perisic doubled his tally two minutes after the break following a lovely one-two with Mauro Icardi, who backheeled it for the Croatia forward to curl into the bottom right corner.
Icardi scored his 17th league goal of the season with a penalty in the 67th after he was tripped by Gabriel and Roberto Gagliardino netted his first for Inter two minutes from time.