Torino, Lazio, Verona keep Europa hopes alive
Torino, Lazio and Verona secured crucial wins on Sunday to make sure the fight for Europa League places will go to the wire in the remaining three games of the Serie A season.
Omar El Kaddouri broke the deadlock in Turin with a fine individual strike on the quarter hour with striker Ciro Immobile stretching his league-leading tally to 21 goals for the season on 56 minutes to secure a 2-0 win.
Torino moved up to sixth place and what is, in theory, a virtual Europa League qualifying spot.
With Napoli facing off against Fiorentina in the final of the Italian Cup, the team who finishes sixth is set to be awarded a place in the Europa League irrespective of next week's result in Rome.
Napoli, who sit third, have virtually secured the third and final Champions League place while Fiorentina, eight points adrift in fourth, are five points better off than fifth-placed Inter and nine ahead of Torino with three games remaining.
Torino, however, are not alone in dreaming of an unlikely place in Europe's second tier club competition next season.
Lazio, whose coach Edy Reja said only two weeks ago he wouldn't bet one euro on his stuttering side sealing their Europa ticket, came away from relegation-threatened Livorno with a 2-0 win which moved them up to seventh on the same points as Torino (52).
Captain Stefano Mauri opened Lazio's account on the quarter hour after pouncing on a blunder from Livorno 'keeper Francesco Bardi.
Antonio Candreva doubled the lead from the spot six minutes after the restart after Rinaudo handled in the area from Mauri's first-time shot.
Verona sit in eighth position on the same points as Torino and Lazio following a 4-0 rout of Catania in the rain-hit northern city.
- Reject Toni makes point -
Veteran striker Luca Toni made up for his recent omission from Italy's World Cup squad by opening the scoring in the sixth minute.
Despite heading home his and the hosts' second on 28 minutes, it was later ruled as an own goal by Catania 'keeper Alberto Frison following review by league officials.
Toni is now second in the Serie A scorer's list with 19 goals, one ahead of Juventus striker Carlos Tevez and two ahead of Gonzalo Higuain of Napoli.
Brazilian midfielder Marquinho scored Verona's third to virtually secure the points, with first-half substitute Juan Gomez adding a fourth on 74 minutes to give Andrea Mandorlini's side a European boost.
Parma, who began the day in sixth, saw their Europa hopes dented by a 1-0 defeat away to Cagliari where Mauricio Pinilla's 35th minute spot-kick secured the points and the Sardinians' top flight survival.
Parma, who were reduced to 10 men on 53 minutes when Felipe saw red for striking Luca Rossettini in the face -- an incident which caused a melee between both sets of players -- are now ninth at one point adrfit of Torino, Lazio and Verona.
Also in the Europa League mix are Milan, who despite a 2-0 reverse to Roma on Friday, sit on the same points as Parma in 10th place.
Sampdoria overcame the sending off of Shkodran Mustafi, which allowed Chievo's Cyril Thereau to put the visitors 1-0 up from the spot on 66 minutes, by scoring two late goals thanks to Eder and Roberto Soriano to snatch a crucial win in Genoa.
Juventus travel to relegation-haunted Sassuolo on Monday and will be expected to restore their eight-point lead on second-placed Roma and take another step towards a third consecutive title under Antonio Conte.