Albiol keeps Napoli's Serie A title hopes burning


Rome (AFP)

Spanish defender Raul Albiol headed in the winner as a 1-0 victory over Genoa on Sunday kept Napoli's Serie A title hopes alive, closing the gap on leaders Juventus to two points.

Juventus' march towards a seventh consecutive Italian title was stalled on Saturday by a goalless draw at struggling SPAL.

And Napoli seized the opportunity to revive their bid for a first league crown since 1990, after a 4-2 defeat by Roma and a goalless draw at Inter Milan in their last two games had put Juve in control.

Maurizio Sarri's side were pushed hard, with Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens both hitting the woodwork before Albiol broke through after 72 minutes at the Stadio San Paolo.

"This was an important game, we were coming back from two matches without a win," said Napoli coach Sarri.

"At this stage last season, Juventus had basically already won the title, so this means we are causing them real problems.

"This is already the second-best campaign in Napoli's history in terms of points, so we'll keep pushing."

Sarri added that the international break had come at just the right time for tired Napoli captain Marek Hamsik, who limped off with a thigh injury after 20 minutes.

Behind the leading pair in the battle for Champions League football next season, Roma consolidated third place -- 14 points behind Napoli -- with a 2-0 win over Crotone.

- Icardi brings up ton -

Inter Milan moved fourth -- four points beind Roma -- following a 5-0 rout of Sampdoria with captain Mauro Icardi scoring four times to break through the 100-goal mark in Serie A.

Inter's win pushed Lazio outside the Champions League places into fifth, after the Romans were held 1-1 at home by Bologna.

Argentinian international Icardi, who had been sidelined for a month with injury, broke the century after scoring his first goals since January.

His four-goal haul included three in 14 minutes against his former club.

Icardi now has 103 goals in Serie A -- 93 with Inter and ten for Sampdoria.

"I really wanted to reach 100 goals and then I just kept going," said Icardi.

But Lazio -- who qualified for the Europa League quarter-finals in midweek -- showed signs of fatigue.

Simone Verdi scored after just three minutes for Bologna, but Lucas Leiva earned a point for Lazio with his second goal in four days but his first in league football since scoring for Liverpool in May 2009.

"We have many fixtures, this was the last in a long run and now we'll have some rest over the break for international duty," said Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi.

In Calabria, Roma claimed a six win in seven games.

Stephan El Shaarawy latched onto an Aleksandar Kolarov cross to open the scoring after 39 minutes with Radja Nainggolan sealing the win on 70 minutes to condemn Crotone to their third loss in four matches.

- AC Milan bounce back -

AC Milan extended their unbeaten league run to 10 games with a come-from-behind 3-2 win over Chievo in the San Siro to consolidate sixth position -- five points off the Champions League spots.

After their Europa League exit to Arsenal, Gennaro Gattuso's side were in battling mood opening their account after ten minutes when Hakan Calhanoglu finished off a Franck Kessie cross.

But Chievo pulled ahead with two quick fire goals from Mariusz Stepinski and Roberto Inglese just after the half-hour mark.

Rising star Patrick Cutrone -- who has just earned his first senior call-up for Italy -- equalised on 54 minutes with Portuguese Andre Silva again scoring the winner, after doing the same against Genoa last week, eight minutes from time.

Kessie missed a chance for a fourth from the penalty spot.

Behind AC Milan, Atalanta moved seventh with a 5-0 thrashing of Verona, while ninth-placed Fiorentina won 2-1 at Torino just two weeks after the death of captain Davide Astori.

Cagliari snatched a 2-1 victory at Benevento with two injury-time goals.