Napoli will have to wait at least one more day to be crowned Italian champions after Lazio beat Sassuolo 2-0 on Wednesday to reclaim second place in Serie A.
Lazio needed to win at the Stadio Olimpico to remain in mathematical contention with five matches to go in their season but more importantly for their own fight to qualify for the Champions League.
Runaway league leaders Napoli are 15 points in front of Lazio ahead of their match at Udinese on Thursday night, when a draw will be enough for Luciano Spalletti’s side to seal the Scudetto with a month of the season remaining.
As such Wednesday’s clash at the Stadio Olimpico was never about the destination of the league title but rather gaining an advantage in the crowded scrum for the three places left for a spot in Europe’s top club competition.
And Lazio are six points ahead of fifth-placed Atalanta thanks to Felipe Anderson’s ninth goal of the season, which came in the 14th minute of a tight game after a beautiful chipped pass from Marco Antonio, and a late strike from Toma Basic.
“We’re all really happy. We know that at this stage of the season things aren’t going to be easy, they get more difficult,” said Anderson to DAZN.
Anderson’s opener came five minutes after a bizarre incident in which Ciro Immobile had a goal disallowed for offside, then given following a long VAR check, and then disallowed again seconds later after Immobile was found to be offside earlier in the move.
Lazio’s bid for the top four was helped by Davide Frattesi’s powerful effort in first-half stoppage time hitting the bar and AC Milan only drawing 1-1 with Cremonese thanks to Junior’s Messias’ fortunate leveller in the final seconds.
Champions League scrum
Sixth-placed Milan host Lazio on Saturday before then taking on local rivals Inter Milan in the first leg of a blockbuster Champions League semi-final, and Stefano Pioli’s second-string again failed to deliver when called upon.
Cremonese meanwhile are six points behind Spezia and Verona, who sit either side of the relegation zone and suffered respective defeats to Atalanta and Inter.
Simone Inzaghi’s Inter are fourth following their thumping 6-0 win at Verona, which moved them up to fourth ahead of their trip to injury-ravaged Roma, who dropped down to seventh following a 1-1 draw at Monza.
An imperious Inter performance was also important for a double from Edin Dzeko, the Bosnian’s first goals since mid-January.
“Of course scoring is important for a striker, but I don’t look at statistics,” Dzeko told Sky.
“The most important thing for us is to win the Champions League, qualify for it for next year and win the Italian Cup.”
Juventus are a point behind Lazio in third after Dusan Vlahovic’s first league goal in nearly three months which earned his team a 2-1 win over struggling Lecce.
Vlahovic ends drought
Serbia striker Vlahovic lashed in what turned out to the winning goal five minutes before half-time at a sparsely-populated Allianz Stadium in Turin.
“He had never experienced this sort of thing before, as at Fiorentina everything always went well, but every player has a period like this in their careers,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri.
Juve broke a four-match winless run but their chances of making the Champions League hinge on a new ruling over their 15-point deduction for illicit transfer activity which was revoked on appeal last month.
Boulaye Dia’s hat-trick was not enough for Salernitana as Fiorentina levelled each one of the Senegal forward’s strikes to claim an exciting 3-3 draw.
Dia, who delayed Napoli’s title party on Sunday, took his league tally for the season to 16 with his treble at the Stadio Arechi, three more than any Salernitana player has ever scored in a single Serie A season.
Meanwhile, rock-bottom Sampdoria, who have serious financial problems, slipped closer to Serie B after a 2-0 home defeat to Torino which left them 11 points from safety with five games to play.
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