Lazio, Napoli win as Milan, Roma stung
Stuttering Lazio relaunched their Serie A campaign by dominating Roma 3-1 in a rain-lashed Rome derby, as high-flying Fiorentina piled the pressure on AC Milan and Napoli fought back to beat Genoa 4-2 on Sunday.
Inter Milan have a chance to close the gap on leaders Juventus to just a point when they face Atalanta away in Sunday's late match.
But the battle behind the two favourites for this season's scudetto gathered pace as both Lazio and Napoli made up for recent setbacks.
Roma got the perfect start when midfielder Erik Lamela sneaked in behind Lazio's defence to head a corner past Federico Marchetti at the back post.
Heavy downpours ensued, making play difficult, but Lazio weathered the storm to get back on level terms in the 35th minute.
Antonio Candreva stepped up for a freekick and hit a piledriver from 35 yards that rocketed past the defensive wall and beat Mauro Goicoechea in the Roma net.
Germany international Miroslav Klose then made amends for a miss moments earlier when he latched on to a pass-shot from Brazilian Hernanes to beat Goicoechea from close range to level.
Roma were stung minutes into the second half when Daniele De Rossi was given a straight red card for a punch-slap to the face of Stefano Mauri as the pair tussled in the area.
Mauri doubled Roma's agony when he pounced on a defensive mistake to put Lazio 3-1 up.
Roma fought back and reduced arrears in spectacular style when Miralem Pjanic hit a long-range freekick in the 90th minute which beat retreating 'keeper Marchetti - but it proved too little too late.
Roma coach Zdenek Zeman suggested the rain had helped Lazio's long-ball game.
"We did well in the first 20 minutes, in fact until the pitch was still good for playing football," said Zeman.
"Then we were less effective because we can't play long balls upfield the same way our opponents do."
Lazio coach Vladimir Petkovic said: "There was no question over our commitment to win this match. It was a job done by the whole team, which was able to play our preferred long ball game."
Napoli, meanwhile, cemented third spot after a valiant fight back from Ciro Immobile's 23rd minute opener for Genoa took them to a 4-2 win.
"We have nine more points than at this stage last year," rejoiced Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri, who revealed his secret for success.
"At halftime I told the boys to believe we could claw it back and in the end we did."
Fiorentina maintained their purple patch with a deserved 3-1 victory over AC Milan at the San Siro.
Former Liverpool midfielder Alberto Aquilani opened the scoring for La Viola, and Milan missed a chance to go level when Alexandre Pato sent a penalty over the crossbar after he had been fouled in the box.
Fiorentina doubled their lead on 38 minutes thanks to Borja Valero, and although Giampaolo Pazzini grabbed a consolation goal on the hour Fiorentina prevailed to stay fourth on 24 points as Milan's sixth defeat of the season leaves the Rossoneri languishing in 13th on 14 points.
Under-pressure Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said: "We gave two goals away and we should have done better. You can’t concede two goals from a throw in.
"I’m very disappointed as this was a big chance to climb up the table now we have to use this week to prepare for the game against Napoli and to get some mental strength back.
"Maybe if Pato had scored the penalty it would have been different but we really shouldn’t have conceded the second goal."
Torino grabbed a precious 1-0 win at home to struggling Bologna while Parma and Siena shared a scoreless draw.
Udinese's solid start to the campaign continued when they grabbed a precious 2-2 draw away to Chievo thanks to Gabriele Angella's second goal of the match in injury time.