Juventus sight Scudetto as Milan lose ground

MILAN (AFP) - Juventus virtually secured their 29th Serie A title on Sunday with a 1-0 win over AC Milan who saw their own bid for Champions League football next season suffer a blow.

A second-half Arturo Vidal penalty settled what was a less-than-inspiring performance from both sides and left the champions requiring just four points from their remaining five games to defend the Scudetto.

Juve, however, could wrap up the title next week if they beat Torino at home and Napoli lose away to bottom side Pescara.

Juve's 24th win of the campaign restored their 11-point lead on Napoli, who beat Cagliari 3-2 earlier Sunday, and dented Milan's push for the league's runner-up spot which offers direct qualification to next season's Champions League.

Milan remain third but are now seven points behind Napoli and, arguably more importantly, are just one point ahead of Fiorentina, who have ambitions to snatch the third and final Champions League spot, albeit one which does not offer direct qualification for the competition.

"We didn't give away much in the match but we were lacking in the final 16 metres (of the pitch)," said Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri, who appeared to concede second place to Napoli.

"Now we have do as much as we can in our final five games to keep our pursuers at bay." Vidal admitted: "It wasn't a great performance, but it's not easy to play against Milan.

"But the important thing is we have taken one more step towards the title." After celebrating the win on the touchline, Juve coach Antonio Conte said: "It's a crucial win for us, because every time we win I hear people say it's another step towards the title.

"This time we can really say that is the case. We haven't won it yet, but we're not far away." Milan had been unbeaten since a 4-2 reverse away to Roma days before Christmas but, missing suspended striker Mario Balotelli, showed little threat against a Juve side at full strength and feeling little pressure.

Neither side really dominated and it took Vidal's 57th minute strike from the spot, following a foul on Ghanaian midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah by Milan keeper Marco Amelia, to settle the game.

Milan's defeat largely benefited Napoli, who after missing a hatful of chances to settle the game early, cemented second spot after Lorenzo Insigne came off the bench to score an injury-time winner against Cagliari.

After seeing Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani score his 23rd goal of the campaign to boost his league-leading tally, Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri admitted: "It seemed like this game was cursed for us.

"We created so many chances without managing to put the ball away. But we have to take our hats off to Cagliari, who had a good match." Milan's defeat also embellised Fiorentina's 4-3 win over a fiesty Torino, a win secured when Brazilian midfielder Romulo came off the bench to clinch a late winner for Vincenzo Montella's side.

Fiorentina's win was all the more crucial given that Roma, one of several teams chasing a Europa League place, dropped points in a 1-1 draw at home to bottom side Pescara.

Admitting that had been a "bitter" result, Roma coach Aurelio Andreazzoli added: "We can't afford to drop points in games like this." In Sunday's early match veteran Tommaso Rocchi saved Inter's blushes with a late strike which secured a 1-0 win over a resilient Parma.

It was Inter's first win at home in four attempts, and captain Javier Zanetti admitted: "These are three important points after a run of poor results.

"Now we have five games left. They'll be tough ones against teams that are fighting for salvation or Europe.

"But we have our own goals as well. We hope to get back some players and challenge our upcoming opponents, just as we've always done."