Gonzalo Higuain’s late goal gives Napoli clutch win at Torino

Gonzalo Higuain celebrates scoring against Torino.

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ROME (AP) — Francesco Totti scored the opener and Roma went on to beat Udinese 3-2 Monday to maintain its three-point lead over Napoli in the race for Italy’s last direct Champions League spot.

Third-place Napoli had won earlier, with Gonzalo Higuain scoring a controversial goal in the 90th minute of a 1-0 victory at Torino.

The top two finishers in Serie A gain direct entry to the Champions League, while the third-place finisher goes into the last playoff round.

Napoli beat Roma 1-0 last weekend, although Roma beat its southern rival 2-0 in October and so holds the head-to-head edge. Roma also has a game in hand.

”We need to keep this pace until the end of the season,” said Totti, who scored off a rebound from the center of the area in the 22nd.

It was Totti’s sixth goal in 16 appearances this season and the 233rd of his Serie A career, second only to record-holder Silvio Piola’s 274.


The 37-year-old Roma Totti had been out for a month due to a minor injury.

Mattia Destro added another for Roma in the 30th, dribbling by the goalkeeper and shooting into an empty net after collecting a pass from Gervinho.

Giampaolo Pinzi pulled one back for Udinese in the 51st with a long, angled shot and then Roma’s Greece defender Vasilis Torosidis restored the two-goal lead in the 69th with a long left-footed effort that appeared to surprise the defense – perhaps because Torosidis usually favors his right foot, and is not known for his shooting skills.

Udinese’s Dusan Basta cut the deficit back to one in the 80th from a rebound.

In Turin, Higuain appeared to foul Torino defender Kamil Glik with a push outside the area after collecting a long pass from Marek Hamsik then dribbled in to score with an angled shot that Torino goalkeeper Daniele Padelli got his hands on and could have done better to stop.

”I don’t know if it was a foul,” Higuain said. ”It was a quick play.”

It was Higuain’s 14th goal this season, after transferring from Real Madrid in July, moving him one behind Juventus’ Carlos Tevez for the Serie A scoring lead.

Napoli had rarely threatened for most of the match, and Torino’s Cesare Bovo and Riccardo Meggiorini hit the post either side of halftime.

Torino, which has lost five of its last six matches, remained 10th.