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Roma pull level with Juve, Napoli up to joint third

Published by Business Insider on Tue, 06 Jan 2015

Milan (AFP) - Title challengers Roma had Davide Astori's controversial first-half goal to thank for a 1-0 win away to Udinese on Tuesday that pulled them level with Juventus at the top of Italy's Serie A.Ahead of Juve's later fixture with Inter Milan, Roma travelled north without Gervinho, Seydou Keita, Emmanuel Badu and Molla Wague -- all of whom are on Africa Cup of Nations duty -- as well as injured defender Leandro Castan.Despite shading the encounter at Udinese's Friuli stadium, Rudi Garcia's men rode their luck in the closing minutes when late substitute Urby Emanuelson seemed to haul down Panagiotis Kone in the box, only for the referee to wave play on.Roma's 12th win of the campaign left them in second place on 39 points, with Lazio, 3-0 winners over Sampdoria on Monday, in third a further nine points adrift.Juventus can restore their three-point cushion with a win in Turin later Tuesday, a game Garcia and Roma will be watching in earnest.Frenchman Garcia told Sky Sport: "It's important to win when you're the first to play. We're relaxed, tonight we'll be in front of the television to see who wins."Roma took the lead in the 17th minute when Astori's powerful header from Francesco Totti's free-kick came off the underside of Orestis Karnezis's crossbar and bounced over the keeper's goalline.The goal appeared to be initially ruled out by the goalline official but following protests by Roma was validated by the referee.Television replays appeared to show that not all of the ball had crossed the line, an incident which is likely to reinforce existing calls for goalline technology to be introduced into Italy's top flight.Garcia admitted that the use of goalline technology would "end any doubts" but added: "At the end of the day the match referee is the one who decides, he was quite well placed to see the ball go over."However Udinese coach Andrea Stramaccioni hit out: "My biggest complaint is about the goalline referees. It's got nothing to do with the score."Roma won and we accept the scoreline. But if the goalline officials, who are put there to rule on borderline goals, are simply ignored by the referee then what is the point of them being there'"- painful Zola debut -Elsewhere, Napoli's push for a place in Europe was buoyed by a 4-1 away win at struggling Cesena, who dropped one place to bottom with Parma moving the other way after a shock 1-0 win over nine-man Fiorentina.Gonzalo Higuain struck a brace, the Argentinian's eighth and ninth goals of the campaign, as Rafael Benitez's men moved level on points with Lazio in the third and final Champions League qualifying spot."We've started the year off well," said Higuain, who also struck twice in Napoli's recent Super Cup triumph over Juventus."We have to keep going like this because there is still a lot to play for in this league."AC Milan's European ambitions stalled after a shock 2-1 home defeat to Sassuolo left Filippo Inzaghi's men seventh but five points behind Lazio and Napoli.Andrea Poli gave Milan a ninth-minute lead but Eusebio De Francesco's visitors levelled thanks to Nicola Sansone's 28th minute strike before Italy forward Simone Zaza wrapped up the points in the 67th minute.Inzaghi hit out at Milan's "lack of consistency" and told Sky Sport: "When you're leading 1-0 at home, you can't afford to lose like this."We weren't up to the level we had before the festive break. It's my fault."Gianfranco Zola's Serie A coaching debut at former club Cagliari, meanwhile, ended in a painful 5-0 rout at Palermo, whose sixth win of the campaign moved them up to eighth place.Join the conversation about this story
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