Napoli kept their title hopes alive with a 4-2 win over Udinese on Wednesday as champions Juventus’ path to a seventh consecutive Serie A title was stalled 1-1 at Crotone.
Nigerian forward Simy grabbed the equaliser for relegation-threatened Crotone after 65 minutes with a spectacular overhead bicycle kick with shades of that scored by Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League in Turin last month.
“We didn’t do so well tonight, even though the guys did everything possible,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri.
“Tonight was decisive for the Scudetto.
“These are the games you need to bring home. The thing to do is stay calm, and play this championship until the end.”
Napoli came from behind twice to cut the gap on Juventus to four points with five games remaining including next Sunday’s top of the table clash between the two teams in Turin.
Maurizio Sarri’s side were given an early scare at home with Czech Jakub Jankto putting Udinese ahead after 41 minutes.
Lorenzo Insigne pulled Napoli back just before the break only for Swedish midfielder Svante Ingelsson to again give Udinese the advantage ten minutes into the second half.
But Raul Albiol, Arkadiusz Milik and Lorenzo Tonelli all scored in a ten-minute spree in the second half to condemn Udinese to their 20th defeat of the season — and tenth in a row.
“We are mathematically second, the goal is reached, now we can have fun,” said Sarri.
“Obviously it’s difficult to go to Turin and try to get the victory, as in terms of strength in depth, I think Juventus are the most complete team in Europe.
“We’ll give it our best shot.”
Napoli had fallen six points adrift of the leaders after last weekend’s goalless draw at AC Milan with the champions closing in on the title.
Gianluigi Buffon was rested ahead of Sunday’s game with Wojciech Szczesny in goal and Juventus looked to be on track after Alex Sandro headed in a Douglas Costa cross after 16 minutes in Calabria.
But Simy struck on 65 minutes to earn a precious point for the southerners — third from bottom of the table with 57 points fewer than Juventus’ 85.
– ‘Remarkable Lazio’ –
Behind the leading duo the race for Champions League football next season continues with AS Roma — already through to the semi-finals of this year’s competition — remaining third after a 2-1 win in Genoa.
Lazio put their Europa League exit behind them and remain fourth with the same number of points as their city rivals, after coming back from two goals down to beat Fiorentina 4-3, ending the Tuscan side’s eight-match unbeaten run.
In a crazy first half in Tuscany both sides were reduced to ten men after Marco Sportiello and Alessandro Murgia were sent off within the first 15 minutes.
Jordan Veretout scored all three goals for Fiorentina. Luis Alberto added a brace for Lazio with Martin Caceres and Felipe Anderson completing the scoreline in the Romans’ favour.
“We showed heart and clear-headedness in the key moments,” said Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi, who was also banished from the sidelines.
“This was our 50th competitive game of the season, but the lads are in good physical shape and continue to do remarkable things.
“This victory was probably our biggest win of the season.”
Inter Milan remain fifth one-point outside the Champions League places after easily seeing off Cagliari 4-0 on Tuesday.
In the fight for Europa League spots AC Milan are sixth after a 1-1 draw at Torino with Atalanta seventh after a 3-0 win over rock bottom Benevento who could be relegated at the weekend.