Napoli closes the gap to Juventus ahead of title showdown

Atalanta's Remo Freuler scores during a Serie A soccer match between Benevento and Atalanta at the Ciro Vigorito stadium in Benevento, Italy, Wednesday, April 18, 2018. (Mario Taddeo/ANSA via AP)

By DANIELLA MATAR

Associated Press

MILAN (AP) Juventus was held to a 1-1 draw at Crotone as Wednesday and will not be able to clinch a seventh successive Serie A title this weekend against closest rival Napoli.

Juventus was leading 1-0 at Crotone and, with Napoli losing against Udinese, knew if results stayed the same a win on Sunday would hand it the crown with four matches remaining.

But Simy equalized for Crotone and Napoli beat Udinese 4-2 to instead close the gap to four points.

"A month and a half ago I would have happily signed a paper to arrive at the match against Napoli with a four-point advantage," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. "It will certainly be a great battle on Sunday and I wouldn't sign for a draw. We have to play to get the maximum points, winning would be a great step forward. Whatever happens though, the championship won't finish Sunday."

Elsewhere, the battle for the Champions League places heated up as Roma and Lazio both won to remain third and fourth, respectively, on the same number of points.

They are one point above fifth-place Inter Milan. The top four from Serie A qualify for Europe's premier club competition.

Napoli's title hopes diminished on Sunday when it was held to a 0-0 draw at AC Milan.

And Maurizio Sarri's side endured another setback when Jakub Jankto tapped in to give Udinese the lead four minutes from halftime on Wednesday.

Lorenzo Insigne leveled moments later but teenager Svante Ingelsson restored Udinese's advantage 10 minutes into the second half.

But news of Crotone's equalizer filtered through to the home fans and that seemed to inspire Napoli as Raul Albiol headed in a corner to put Napoli back on level terms.

Napoli took the lead for the first time in the match in the 70th. Albano Bizzarri parried Jose Callejon's effort but the ball fell straight to Arkadiusz Milik, who slotted it into an empty net.

Lorenzo Tonelli headed in another corner five minutes later to seal the win.

"We wanted this win, we're four points behind Juventus and now we have to go to Turin with the right mentality," Insigne said. "Against Juventus it will be 11 against 11, today we gave a huge sign that we have heart and determination, we have to show that on the pitch Sunday too."

Douglas Costa had set up all three goals for Juventus on Sunday and he was again the provider in the 16th minute with a perfect cross from the right for Alex Sandro to head the Bianconeri in front.

However, Crotone leveled in spectacular fashion in the 65th through an audacious overhead kick from Simy - a similar goal to Cristiano Ronaldo's in the Champions League against Juventus.

It was a valuable point for Crotone, which inched a point from safety.

Lazio fought back from two goals down to win 4-3 at Fiorentina after a frantic start which saw two red cards and a goal in the first 16 minutes.

Fiorentina goalkeeper Marco Sportiello was sent off in the seventh minute for handling the ball outside the area and Lazio's Alessandro Murgia followed him after bringing down Federico Chiesa who was clear through on goal.

Jordan Veretout scored from that free kick and converted a penalty but it was all level at halftime after goals from Luis Alberto and Martin Caceres.

Veretout completed his hat trick after the break but Felipe Anderson leveled again for Lazio in the 69th and Luis Alberto doubled his tally four minutes later.

Roma remained above Lazio thanks to a better head-to-head record after beating Genoa 2-1.

Torino held AC Milan to a 1-1 draw despite Andrea Belotti hitting the bar with an early penalty.

Giacomo Bonaventura fired Milan into the lead shortly afterward but Lorenzo De Silvestri leveled in the 70th.

Milan remained in the final Europa League berth, two points above Atalanta, which won 3-0 at last-place Benevento with teenager Musa Barrow netting his first Serie A goal.

Benevento is 15 points from safety after 17th-place Spal drew 0-0 against fellow struggler Chievo Verona.

Hellas Verona is four points below Spal after losing 1-0 to Sassuolo, which moved six points above the relegation zone.

Sampdoria beat Bologna 1-0 thanks to Duvan Zapata's stoppage-time winner.

More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

Updated April 18, 2018

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