ROME, March 29 – AC Milan missed out on the chance to close the gap on leaders Inter Milan to a single point when they were held to a 1-1 home draw by Lazio at the San Siro on Sunday.
Earlier in the day Juventus brushed off an attack on their team bus by their own fans to beat Atalanta 2-1 at Turin’s Stadio Olimpico and keep alive their hopes of a top-four finish.
Following AS Roma’s 2-1 win over Inter on Saturday, Milan knew they could join the capital based team a point behind their city rivals if they won but the draw leaves them third and three points off top.
It was also their third straight league game without a win and was met with boos at the final whistle while, for Lazio, the point was a great boost in their fight against relegation.
Milan coach Leonardo insisted, though, that the title race is still wide open.
"It’s a strange championship with many surprises in terms of form and results and it’s very difficult to predict results," he said.
"In the seven matches remaining incredible things could still happen."
Despite missing the likes of Ronaldinho, Pato, David Beckham, Andrea Pirlo and Alessandro Nesta, Milan took the lead on 18 minutes.
French midfielder Mathieu Flamini broke into the Lazio area and collided with Aleksandar Kolarov.
The referee pointed to the spot with Marco Borriello converting high to Fernando Muslera’s left.
Until that point Milan had been the better side with veteran Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf stinging Muslera’s hands with a piledriver.
But thereafter it was the visitors who took charge and threatened the most.
They were deservedly level on 32 minutes when Luca Antonini failed to deal with Cristian Ledesma’s chip into the box, prodding his weak clearance against Stefano Mauri with the ball falling invitingly to Stephan Lichtsteiner to shoot home.
Antonini almost made amends in the second half but his rasping shot came crashing back off the bar.
Borriello then missed a great chance to hand Milan the lead again halfway through the second period as he volleyed Filippo Inzaghi’s cross over.
But Andre Dias missed an even better chance for Lazio, volleying over from inside the six yard box.
Ignazio Abate had a great chance for the hosts eight minutes from time when Kolarov’s back header fell short of Muslera but having toe-poked the ball off the goalkeeper’s fingertips, Abate fired over as he fell backwards.
uve’s win was a rare bright moment for the players in a trying season and on a troubling day that began with them coming under attack from their own frustrated fans.
The team were boarding the bus at their hotel when they were attacked with bottles and eggs.
Fans, disgruntled at the team’s dire form this season, also tried to prevent the bus from leaving and the police had to intervene.
Supporters also hurled abuse at the team, singling out in particular three players: Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro, French full-back Jonathan Zebina and Melo.
Sky TV images showed Zebina was slapped on the neck by a man as he went to board the bus.
But the day ended well as Juve closed to within three points of fourth-placed Palermo with a crucial victory, a fact not lost on coach Alberto Zaccheroni, particularly after two defeats in a row.
"I expected a reaction and I got one. We really wanted this win and now we have a week off to recharge our batteries ahead of our game against Udinese," he said.
"We gave everything we had, maybe even more, and we’ve earned three vital points."
Evergreen forward Alessandro Del Piero opened the scoring on the half hour with a brilliant trademark 25-yard free-kick into the top corner but former Juve forward Nicola Amoruso equalised on the stroke of half-time when the hosts were caught napping at the back by a ball over the top.
Felipe Melo scored the winner eight minutes from time with a looping back post header.