Italian Serie A Roundup, Jan. 16
AC Milan conceded a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw at Lecce on Sunday, missing a chance to extend its Serie A lead after second-place Napoli had drawn a day earlier.
Milan went ahead from a magnificent strike by Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 49th minute, but Uruguayan midfielder Ruben Olivera drew Lecce level in the 82nd with a bouncing shot from the center of the area after being left unmarked at a corner.
Milan leads with 41 points. Lazio and Napoli are next with 37 each, AS Roma has 35, Juventus 34 and Inter Milan 32 with two matches to make up.
In an otherwise lackluster performance for Milan, Ibrahimovic's goal was a work of art. The Sweden international shrugged off a defender beyond the area and calmly lobbed a precise shot inside the far high corner of the goal as 'keeper Antonio Rosati looked on helplessly.
It was the 11th goal this season for Ibrahimovic after returning to Italy following an unhappy stint with Barcelona.
Lecce continuously threatened to equalize, with Milan goalkeeper Marco Amelia having to swat away a dangerous effort from Guillermo Giacomazzi in the 61st. Lecce forward David Di Michele had a shot that hit the post in the 81st.
"We weren't able to close it out when we went ahead 1-0," said Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri. "We didn't create much, very little actually."
Earlier, Lazio joined Napoli in second place with a 1-0 win over Sampdoria following a late winner from substitute Libor Kozak.
Similarly, Roma won 1-0 at Cesena when Fabio Simplicio directed the ball in off defender Max Pellegrino in the 89th; and Alberto Aquilani scored a late winner as Juventus beat last-place Bari 2-1.
Napoli drew 0-0 with Fiorentina on Saturday and Inter beat Bologna 4-1.
Elsewhere Sunday, Antonio Di Natale scored his league-leading 14th goal as Udinese defeated Genoa 4-2 to move into eighth; Brescia beat 10-man Parma 2-0 to give coach Mario Beretta a much-needed win following three consecutive losses; and Catania and Chievo Verona drew 1-1.
Also, Cagliari beat Palermo 3-1 to put a dent in the Sicilian club's Champions League hopes.
In Rome, the 21-year-old Czech forward Kozak headed in from the edge of the box in the 84th to break a deadlock at the Stadio Olimpico, then ripped his Lazio jersey off to celebrate, drawing a yellow card.
After a dull first half, Italy forward Giampaolo Pazzini threatened for Sampdoria in the 51st, wasting a good look with a shot high, and Kozak scored seven minutes after coming on.
"Kozak has good ability and when he has been called on he's always responded positively," said Lazio manager Edy Reja.
Rejecting speculation that Kozak was on the transfer market, Lazio president Claudio Lotito said he now won't even be offered on loan.
Roma's score came after Marco Borriello hit the crossbar and Adriano couldn't pound in the rebound.
"We didn't give up one meter and I like it when the squad believes until the end," said Roma coach Claudio Ranieri, but still warned, "Every time we win away we call it the game that will mark our turnaround."
In Turin, Juventus was without four injured forwards - Vincenzo Iaquinta, Fabio Quagliarella, Amauri and newly signed Luca Toni - which resulted in 19-year-old Niccolo Giannetti starting alongside Juventus captain Alessandro Del Piero in attack.
Del Piero curved in a free kick over Cesena's wall to put Juve ahead in the 43rd. After Hungary forward Gergely Rudolf equalized in the 57th, Aquilani restored the lead with a powerful, bouncing shot from the edge of the area in the 79th.
"We really interpreted the game well, both technically and emotionally," said Juventus coach Luigi Del Neri.
While Juventus beat Catania 2-0 in the Italian Cup on Thursday, this was the Turin club's first win in Serie A since beating Lazio 2-1 on Dec. 12. It was also goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon's first Serie A match since injuring his back at the World Cup.
Del Neri had surprisingly said that Buffon would have to earn his starting place back when he returned from surgery, but after this performance and the way Buffon played against Catania, he indicated that the club's other goalkeeper, Marco Storari, will now likely be headed for a transfer.
"When Gigi Buffon is healthy I don't see anyone playing in his place," Del Neri said.