Roma close gap on Juve, Parma stun Napoli
Mattia Destro-inspired Roma kept their faint scudetto hopes alive while Parma offered the Giallorossi an unexpected boost with a shock 1-0 win over Napoli in Sunday's late match.
Destro scored his maiden Serie A hat-trick in Roma's 3-1 win away to Cagliari to help reduce the gap to leaders Juventus to just five points.
Although Juventus are expected to restore their eight-point lead when they host struggling Livorno on Monday, the Giallorossi will hope, for 24 hours at least, that their dream of a first scudetto since 2001 is not yet over.
Roma coach Rudi Garcia told Sky Sport Italia: "The race for the title isn't over, but it's not down to us. All we have right now is a tight grip on second place, and we'll try to hold on to it until the end of the season."
Destro gave Roma a 32nd-minute lead after finishing off a counter-attack with Gervinho, and doubled Roma's lead 12 minutes into the second half after being sent clear by former Cagliari midfielder Radja Nainggolan.
Destro completed his hat-trick in the 73rd minute, while Cagliari reduced the arrears a minute before full-time when Mauricio Pinilla beat Morgan De Sanctis from the penalty spot after being brought down by Mehdi Benatia.
Destro was already Roma's top scorer but has now taken his tally to 13 for the season, five behind Juventus striker Carlos Tevez and Torino's Ciro Immobile, who are tied on 18.
Roma's win extended their lead over Napoli to 12 points and the Giallorossi kept that cushion after Rafael Benitez's men were stunned, for the second time this season by Parma, at the Enzo Tardini stadium.
"This is a really important win for us. Now, we have to believe in our chances to qualify for Europe," Parma coach Roberto Donadoni told Sky Sport.
Napoli had the ball in the net after 10 minutes but Federico Fernandez was offside while nodding Lorenzo Insigne's freekick past Antonio Mirante.
Ten minutes after the restart Pepe Reina was left clutching at thin air after Marco Parolo, unmarked on the edge of the box, ran in to drive Gabriel Paletta's cutback from the right flank first-time into the net for a 55th minute opener.
- Crumbled under challenge -
Napoli striker Gonazalo Higuain was replaced by Duvan Zapata on 68 minutes and shortly after the Colombian thought he had won a penalty after crumbling under a challenge from Mirante.
Although the 'keeper appeared to make no contact with the ball, Napoli were denied a penalty and Zapata earned a caution for his trouble.
Seven minutes from time Insigne fired wide of Mirante's far post from a tight angle and then Zapata saw his header from Insigne's delightful cross tipped over by Mirante in the closing minutes.
Having stunned Juventus 2-0 last week, Benitez was at a loss to explain Napoli's comparatively limpid performance away from home.
"We're disappointed. We had the game under control in the first half and then they had a shot on goal and they scored," the Spaniard said.
"But we do need more intensity in both attack and defence. We have a quality side, with its strengths and weaknesses, but we need to be more consistent."
Fiorentina sit fourth after a 2-1 win at home to Udinese while at the other end of the table Sassuolo injected a sliver of hope into their relegation battle with a shock 2-0 win away to Atalanta, thanks to a double from Nicolae Sansone.
Sassuolo, however, remain second from bottom and are three points from safety.
Earlier Sunday, Antonio Candreva and Senad Lulic struck in either half for 10-man Lazio to secure a precious 2-0 win over Sampdoria.
Edy Reja's men are now seventh, two points behind Parma and Inter and still in Europa League contention.
Reja, who in midweek said he wouldn't bet a euro on his side's Europa League hopes, has since backpedalled.
"I'm proud and satisfied: we're on a positive streak and we'll fight all the way to grab a Europa League place."