Second-half goals from Federico Balzaretti and Adem Ljajic handed AS Roma a precious 2-0 derby win over Lazio to send the Giallorossi top of Italy’s Serie A on Sunday.
Napoli, who were leaders ahead of Roma but with the same goals difference prior to this weekend, are away to a depleted AC Milan side in Sunday’s late game.
Ahead of the San Siro fixture, Roma take the lead with a two-point cushion on Inter, who had gone top provisionally earlier Sunday following a 7-0 rout away to Sassuolo.
Fiorentina, in third, and fourth-placed Juventus are also just two points shy of Rudi Garcia’s league leaders, with Napoli one point adrift in fifth.
Goals from Fernandez Mati and Giuseppe Rossi secured Fiorentina’s 2-0 away win at Atalanta while Juventus saw Carlos Tevez level Fabrizio Cacciatore’s opener for Verona and Spain international Fernando Llorente score his maiden goal on his debut to secure a nervy 2-1 home win for the champions.
Roma, who finished seventh last season, have enjoyed a positive start to the campaign under French coach Garcia.
But although dominant throughout, Roma kept their fans frustrated until just after the hour when Balzaretti first-timed Francesco Totti’s delivery from deep on the right past beaten Lazio goalkeeper Federico Marchetti.
Lazio suffered a blow when second-half substitute Andre Dias saw red for a blatant foul on Totti on 81 minutes.
Roma secured the points on the stroke of full-time Ljajic converted from the spot after he had been fouled by Cristian Ledesma.
Garcia, who underlined the fact Lazio had been in Europa League action on Thursday, was quick to play down Roma’s title hopes.
“We can’t forget Lazio were in action three days ago and sooner or later you pay for those efforts,” said the Frenchman.
“But it was a crucial win for us. Our aim is for a top five finish and a place in Europe but it’s far too early to be making predictions.”
Llorente, meanwhile, was the hero for Juventus after snatching the winner for the champions who despite dominating Verona throughout struggled to find the net.
Unmarked defender Cacciatore grabbed the opener for Verona when he bundled Vangelis Moras’s header from a corner past ‘keeper Marco Storari at the back post on 36 minutes.
Juve, however, levelled four minutes later when Tevez ran on to Leonardo Bonucci’s smart through ball to beat Rafael with a superb angled drive.
And Llorente secured the winner on the stroke of half-time when he muscled past his marker at the back post to head Vidal’s perfectly-weighted cross past the keeper.
It ended what has been a frustrating few weeks for the Spanish striker, who has been mostly warming the substitutes’ bench.
“Fernando is doing well now and I’m happy he scored,” said Juve coach Antonio Conte, who nevertheless singled former Manchester City striker Tevez out for special praise.
“He’s very important because when we’re in danger he can keep the ball and create openings for us. It’s difficult to do without a player like him.”
Earlier, Argentinean striker Diego Milito scored twice on his return from a seven-month injury lay-off as Inter Milan thumped promoted Serie A strugglers Sassuolo 7-0.
A week after also making Walter Mazzarri’s squad for a 1-1 draw at home to Juventus, Milito scored barely 10 minutes after replacing Rodrigo Palacio nine minutes into the second half and added a second seven minutes from the final whistle.
“On a scale of one to 10, today is worth more than 10,” said Milito.
“We put in a great performance. It’s an extraordinary squad and I want to say thank you to everyone who supported me in this difficult time, from my friends and family to the physios at the club.”