Serie A: Juventus secures Scudetto, AC Milan and Roma both slip

Associated Press
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A massive day in the jam packed Serie A Champions League race nearly saw AS Roma take over the fourth spot in the table from AC Milan, but Inter came to the rescue to save their rivals’ coveted spot.

AC Milan held the fourth and final Champions League spot coming into the day, but slipped with a 1-1 draw at 14th placed Parma, only able to put three of its 15 shots on target and conceding an 87th minute on a free-kick by Bruno Alves that left Gianluigi Donnarumma completely frozen, unable to reach his near post.

That cancelled out a 69th minute header by Samu Castillejo at the near post that perfectly deflected across the face of goal and under the crossbar into the back of the net. Otherwise, however, AC Milan was toothless in the attack. They completed just three of 11 attempted one-on-one take-ons and only seven of their 110 completed attacking-third passes were in the penalty area.

With the door open, Roma looked to have taken advantage with an early lead over third-placed Inter. Stephan El Shaarawy opened the scoring 14 minutes in, a beautiful curling right-footed effort from well outside the box that found the inside of the far post. It stayed that way past halftime but Inter struck back through a diving header by Ivan Perisic at the back post just past the hour mark. The scoreline remained 1-1 the rest of the way, leaving Roma still out of the top four, a single point back of AC Milan with Atalanta and Torino two behind Roma.

While a formality for some time now, Juventus took care of struggling Fiorentina 2-1 at home in comeback fashion thanks to an own-goal from German Pezzella. That confirmed their eighth straight Serie A title, leading by 20 points over Napoli with five matches to go. Juve fell behind in the ninth minute when a scrum in front of net saw the ball squirt out to Nikola Milenkovic for an easy finish into an open net. Juve weathered Fiorentina hitting the post before Alex Sandro leveled things up prior to halftime with a fabulous near-post header from an incredibly difficult angle.

Elsewhere, Lazio fell at home to Chievo Verona, effectively dropping them out of the crowded Champions League race. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic was sent off in the 34th minute for a moment of petulance, kicking out at Mariusz Stepinski. That left Lazio with a personnel disadvantage for nearly an hour, and they didn’t last long, conceding twice in quick succession after halftime to Emanuel Vignato and Perparim Hetemaj who put Chievo 2-0 up by the 51st minute. Vignato’s featured a silky move just outside the top of the box, while Hetemaj headed home the eventual winner when Adam Marusic horribly misjudged a Fabio Depaoli cross. The loss for Lazio leaves them in ninth place on 52 points, five points back of fourth.

Torino remained in the hunt for a European place after a 1-0 road win at Genoa, with Cristian Ansaldi finding the back of the net in the 58th minute thanks to a wonderful late run, found on a lay-off after great hold-up play from Alex Berenguer at the top of the box. Torino goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu also chipped in with four saves, including a big one just after the half-hour mark diving down to his right to stop a header.

Udinese picked up a valuable point in the relegation battle in a 1-1 draw with Sassuolo thanks to an 80th minute own-goal by Pol Lirola that leveled the score late. Still, after holding Sassuolo to just two shots on target, Udinese will be disappointed not to put more distance between them and 18th placed Empoli just four points back.

Empoli remained on 29 points after falling 4-2 to SPAL despite holding a 57%-43% possessional advantage throughout the match. They allowed seven shots on target by SPAL leading to a brace from Andrea Petagna plus goals from Sergio Floccari and Mirco Antenucci.