Medhi Benatia scored against his old club to help Juventus beat title rival Roma 1-0 on Saturday and move to within a point of leader Napoli in one of the tightest Serie A races in years. Earlier, Napoli fought back to beat Sampdoria 3-2 in a match in which Marek Hamsik became the club’s all-time leading scorer with his 116th.
Juventus moved four points above Inter Milan, which had a penalty saved in a 1-0 loss at Sassuolo. Roma remained fourth, seven points behind Napoli but with a game in hand. Benatia, who spent a season at Roma before leaving for Bayern Munich in 2014, almost did his old club a favor deep in stoppage time with a poor backpass which sent Patrik Schick clear on goal, but goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny rushed out to parry with his legs.
“I’m pleased because Roma is a rival for the title,” Benatia said. “Having won with my goal is an added joy … although of course I have friends there. “We could have finished it off but we made a couple of mistakes in attack. Then we risked a lot with my mistake, but luckily Szczesny was phenomenal. It … could have cost us a lot. We are still the team to beat.”
Juventus broke the deadlock in chaotic fashion following a 19th-minute corner. Roma goalkeeper Alisson did brilliantly to keep out Giorgio Chiellini’s header and turned Benatia’s attempt from the rebound onto the bar but couldn’t keep out the Morocco defender’s follow-up.
Another former Roma player was in goal for Juventus, with Szczesny standing in for the injured Gianluigi Buffon. He did well to deny Stephan El Shaarawy from close range.
Roma’s night was almost made worse by another ex-fan favorite, but Miralem Pjanic’s shot came off the crossbar.
Alessandro Florenzi also hit the bar for the capital club.
Napoli was behind twice before Hamsik surpassed Argentina great Diego Maradona’s tally with the winner shortly before halftime. Sampdoria got off to a perfect start in Naples as Gaston Ramirez curled a free kick into the top left corner with less than two minutes on the clock.
Napoli leveled when Emiliano Viviano could only parry Jose Callejon’s volley and Allan fired home the rebound. Fabio Quagliarella restored Sampdoria’s lead with a penalty after Elseid Hysaj brought down Ramirez.
It was Quagliarella’s first time back at Napoli since he revealed a stalker nightmare forced him to leave his hometown club in 2010. Lorenzo Insigne marked his return from injury with an equalizer, volleying Dries Mertens’ chipped pass into the bottom left corner.
Hamsik made history six minutes later, still in the first half. Allan dribbled past three players in the area before picking out Mertens, who rolled the ball across for Hamsik to tap in from close range.
The only negative note for Napoli was the dismissal of defender Mario Rui 13 minutes from time following a second yellow card.
Little more than a week ago, Inter was on top of the table and the only unbeaten team in the league. It is now five points off the pace following a second successive defeat. Diego Falcinelli scored the only goal 11 minutes from halftime, heading in a cross from Matteo Politano, who ran almost the entire length of the right flank.
Falcinelli needed several minutes of treatment afterward as he clattered into the post as he scored. Icardi, who earlier missed a sitter and saw an effort cleared off the line, should have leveled five minutes after the break but Andrea Consigli saved his penalty after Francesco Acerbi’s handball.
It was a third successive win for Sassuolo, which moved five points clear of the relegation zone.
AC Milan was booed off the pitch after falling to a second successive defeat, 2-0 at home to Atalanta. Gennaro Gattuso has just one win from his four league matches since replacing Vincenzo Montella as coach. Fresh from beating Inter last weekend, Udinese continued its revival by humiliating Hellas Verona 4-0 for its fourth consecutive league win.
Antonin Barak scored twice to take his tally to four goals in the last three rounds. Teammate Kevin Lasagna has four in four. Lazio beat Crotone by the same result, while Genoa needed a stoppage-time penalty to defeat Benevento 1-0. Spal and Torino drew 2-2.