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Monday March 10, 2014 MYT 7:27:04 AM
Monday March 10, 2014 MYT 7:27:04 AM
by brian homewood
(Reuters) - AS Roma's lingering hopes of catching Serie A leaders Juventus were virtually extinguished after two stunning Pepe Reina saves kept them at bay and Jose Callejon's late goal handed third-placed Napoli a 1-0 home win on Sunday.
Juventus, who earlier beat Fiorentina 1-0 with a spectacular strike by Kwadwo Asamoah, moved 14 points clear and are poised to land a third successive title in as many seasons under Antonio Conte.
Callejon rose to meet Faouzi Ghoulam's deep cross in the 81st minute with a powerful header that went in off the underside of the bar for his 10th league goal of the season as Napoli increased their chances of pipping Roma for second spot.
Reina, the villain a week ago when his own goal allowed Livorno to grab a 1-1 draw, made a superb double save from Gervinho in the first half and did even better when he got down to block a deflected Maicon shot after the break.
Roma, who lost Dutch midfielder Kevin Strootman to injury in the first half, had other chances to break the deadlock on a day when nothing seemed to go their way.
Juventus enjoyed a dose of good fortune as they claimed a 14th straight home win of the season when Fiorentina substitute Ryder Matos headed against the bar with 10 minutes left.
The hosts, typically dominant in the first half, scored in the 42nd minute when Asamoah burst into the area and, despite being surrounded by four defenders, made space with a clever dragback before firing a right-footed shot into the top corner.
"The coach keeps telling me to cut in and try shooting from that angle," the Ghanaian told Sky Sport Italia. "It's the first with my right foot and I am very happy."
Juventus are on 72 points with 11 matches to go while Roma have 58 with a game in hand. Napoli, in the Champions League playoff spot, have 55.
"We are 50 percent champions of Italy," said coach Conte. "We're going at an extraordinary pace."
Lazio's crisis deepened when they lost 1-0 at home to Atalanta in an almost deserted Stadio Olimpico as fans stayed away in the latest protest against club president Claudio Lotito.
Maxi Moralez piled on the misery when he snapped up a rebound to score on the hour and the hosts had midfielder Antonio Candreva sent off four minutes later when he was given a second yellow card for diving.
An unorthodox header by Rodrigo Palacio gave fifth-placed Inter Milan a 1-0 win at home to Torino as they continued a slow but sure recovery from a mid-season crisis.
The Argentine appeared to be trying to head the ball back across goal but instead it looped over goalkeeper Daniele Padelli and into the net, extending Inter's unbeaten run to five games.
Sampdoria banged in four second-half goals to beat Livorno 4-2 after Ibrahima Mbaye had produced a first-half double for the relegation-threatened visitors.
Nenad Krsticic, a Federico Ceccherini own goal, Stefano Okaka and Manolo Gabbiadini netted for Sampdoria who have made huge strides under former Serbia coach Sinisa Mihajlovic.
Alberto Paloschi converted two penalties, the first after five minutes and the second deep into stoppage time, to give Chievo a 2-1 victory over Genoa who thought they had taken a point when Alberto Gilardino levelled in the 88th minute.
Parma beat Verona 2-0 while Sassuolo celebrated the return of coach Eusebio Di Francesco by drawing 0-0 at Bologna to end a seven-match losing run.
Di Francesco was fired in late January but returned last week after replacement Alberto Malesani lost all five games in charge.
Fourth-placed Fiorentina have 45 points, one ahead of Inter with Parma a further point behind in sixth.
At the bottom, Chievo (24 points) and Bologna (23) are just outside the relegation zone that is occupied by Livorno (21), Catania (20) and Sassuolo (18).
(Editing by Tony Jimenez) nL3N0M60GD
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