Roma draws 1-1 at home to struggling Atalanta in Serie A
MILAN (AP) — Roma failed to make the most of Lazio’s defeat as it was held 1-1 at home by relegation-threatened Atalanta in Serie A to move level on points with its city rival in second spot, while Inter Milan drew 0-0 against AC Milan in a heated derby match.
Francesco Totti gave Roma the lead from the spot in the third minute, but Atalanta leveled with a penalty of its own and Roma couldn’t convert its pressure into genuine scoring opportunities.
Roma, which was booed by its own fans, moved level with second-place Lazio on 58 points, 15 behind runaway leader Juventus. The two meet in the penultimate round of the season.
Napoli gave itself hope of sneaking into the final Champions League place by cruising to a 3-0 win at Cagliari later to close the gap to five points. Rafa Benitez’s side has now scored 10 goals in its past three matches.
The two Milan teams remained mired in mid-table after an entertaining match which saw three goals disallowed and a strong penalty claim by Inter denied.
“It was a very clear penalty,” Inter coach Roberto Mancini said. “The referee couldn’t see it because he had a player in front of him, but the goal-line official could see it very well as he saw Palacio’s foul.
“The squad is not weak, it just needs a bit more time, to correct mistakes, to change mentality. We need a few more months, maybe I was a bit too positive at the beginning.”
Elsewhere, Genoa lost 2-1 at Palermo and Torino drew 1-1 at Sassuolo, hindering their chances of qualifying for Europe.
Bottom club Parma drew 2-2 at Empoli and Chievo Verona drew 1-1 against Udinese.
Roma came into the game knowing it could move back into second spot with a win following Lazio’s 2-0 loss at Juventus on Saturday.
Part of the Curva Sud was closed for the match after offensive banners mocking the mother of murdered Napoli fan Ciro Esposito were displayed during the team’s previous home match. There were also protests outside the stadium against Roma President James Pallotta.
On the pitch, Roma was awarded an early penalty after Guglielmo Stendardo mistimed a sliding challenge on Adem Ljajic and blocked the ball with his arm.
Francesco Totti stepped up and fired into the bottom left corner, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way, to give Roma a third-minute lead.
However, Atalanta leveled 20 minutes later when Davide Astori tripped Urby Emanuelson in the corner of the area and German Denis converted in similar fashion.
Roma went close to restoring its lead 11 minutes from time when Atalanta goalkeeper Marco Sportiello could only parry Ljajic’s effort but Giulio Migliaccio was decisive to slide in and clear the danger as Vasilis Torosidis was about to fire into an empty net.
With AC Milan in ninth place and Inter 10th, the Milan derby was more about city bragging rights than title hopes as in previous years.
Mancini handed teenager Assane Gnoukouri a surprise first Serie A start and the 18-year-old impressed, playing a crucial part in Inter’s bright start.
It was end-to-end action at San Siro as Milan slowly got into the match and the Rossoneri had a goal ruled out in the 29th minute as Nigel De Jong was offside in the build-up to Alex’s header.
Inter forward Rodrigo Palacio also had a goal disallowed shortly after halftime for an offside decision on Mauro Icardi and that seemed to encourage the Argentine as he went close shortly before the hour, beating Diego Lopez only to be denied by a goal-line clearance from Luca Antonelli.
Inter appealed furiously for a penalty minutes later after Antonelli appeared to use his hand to block Hernanes’ shot. The incident occurred right in front of the Nerazzurri fans, who screamed loudly as the players surrounded the referee, who waved away their protests.
Inter and their fans were angered further in the 72nd minute when Philippe Mexes scored an own goal but it was disallowed for a Palacio shirt tug on Marco Van Ginkel in the build-up, sparing the Milan defender’s blushes.
“I’m only speaking about football, I don’t want to talk about incidents but I think the referee was good tonight,” Milan coach Filippo Inzaghi said. “Our position was affected by injuries in February and March but we have an almost full squad now, apart from (Riccardo) Montolivo, who as our captain and leader is almost irreplaceable, and we will try soon to return to the Milan side that everyone wants. But sometimes you need a bit of patience.”