Inter Milan and Fiorentina maintained their title push as fellow hopefuls Napoli and Roma dropped precious points in a dramatic weekend of Serie A action.
Champions Juventus stayed in the hunt with a 2-0 win at Lazio on Friday that secured a fifth straight win for Massimiliano Allegri’s men ahead of their final Champions League group game away to Sevilla.
But Inter and Fiorentina were arguably the biggest winners after 1-0 and 3-0 wins over Genoa and Udinese respectively took on fresh importance in the light of Roma’s 1-1 draw at Torino and Napoli’s 3-2 shock reverse at Bologna.
Roberto Mancini won seven trophies including three consecutive league titles in his previous spell at Inter in 2004-2008 and the Nerazzurri are now top with a one-point lead on Fiorentina.
Napoli dropped to third at two points behind, with Roma in fourth at five points off the pace and Juventus trailing one point further back.
There were shocks elsewhere as Sassuolo raced to a 3-0 lead inside 39 minutes at Sampdoria before prevailing 3-1 to hand the Genoa-based side their third consecutive defeat since Vincenzo Montella replaced Walter Zenga.
It moved Eusebio Di Francesco’s surprise package up to sixth, seven points behind Inter and one ahead of Atalanta, who followed their shock 2-0 defeat of Roma last week with a 3-0 rout of Palermo that has piled the pressure on the Sicilians’ new coach Davide Ballardini.
In Sunday’s late game AC Milan laid seige to Carpi’s goal throughout but settled for a scoreless draw that left them in eighth, 10 points behind city rivals Inter.
Inter’s time in the hot seat comes in spite of their goal-shy approach to winning the ‘scudetto’ but with only nine goals conceded Mancini’s men boast the league’s stingiest defence.
Saturday’s win came thanks to Adem Ljajic’s superb free-kick that sailed over the heads of everyone to bounce into Mattia Perin’s net.
A week after a controversial 2-1 defeat to Napoli, Mancini admitted: “It was important for us to win again immediately to consolidate the positive aspects of our performance at the San Paolo.”
But it was striker Mauro Icardi’s continued absence that dominated the headlines after the Argentinian spent his second consecutive game on the bench.
Mancini simply explained: “It’s good to change things around a little, that way everyone knows they have a chance of playing.”
Napoli’s win last week had sent them top of the pile for the first time in 25 years.
But Maurizio Sarri’s men, unbeaten since defeat to Sassuolo on the opening day of the season, struggled to recover after going 2-0 down before the half-hour at Bologna as Luca Rossettini added to Mattia Destro’s 14th-minute opener.
Destro hit his second on the hour and although Gonzalo Higuain hit a last-gasp brace to set up a tense finale — and take his league-leading tally to 14 — the hosts hung on for just their fifth win of the season to move two points clear of the drop zone.
Sarri admitted his side had been outplayed but hit out at claims Napoli had choked while top of the league.
“We made mistakes but we didn’t get the rub of the green either,” he said.
“At 3-0 down, we stopped believing and that was a mistake given we fought our way back at the finish.”
He added: “I haven’t read my contract since I signed it but I’m sure there’s nothing there that says I have to obtain anything other than a place in the Champions League.”
Fiorentina maintained their purple patch after goals from Milan Badelj, Josip Ilicic, from the spot, and Gonzalo Rodriguez five minutes from the whistle secured a 3-0 home win over Udinese at a packed Artemio Franchi stadium.
Belief in a title not won since 1969 is growing in Florence, but coach Paulo Sousa, a former Inter midfielder, said it’s a constant battle.
“We’re consolidating what we’re achieving against sides that are well organised and technically strong,” said the Portuguese coach.
“For every game you need to tailor your strategy because there are so many different elements that can decide a game.
“That’s our way forward, we want to play at a high level to maintain this consistency.” – Agence France-Presse