Milan, Dec 4: Udinese prevailed in a frantic finish to beat 10-man Inter Milan in Serie A on Saturday, while Napoli crushed bottom side Lecce 4-2.
Mauricio Isla gave Udinese the lead in the 73rd minute and the visitors looked to have sealed the match five minutes from time when they were awarded a penalty and Inter captain Javier Zanetti was sent off.
However, Antonio Di Natale had his spot kick saved by Julio Cesar. Moments later it was Inter which was awarded a penalty, but Giampaolo Pazzini blazed over.
Udinese defender Damiano Ferronetti was sent off in injury time for dissent.
“When Pazzini was about to take the penalty I was really hoping (goalkeeper Samir) Handanovic could do something,” Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin said. “When I saw the ball go over I let out a sigh of relief.
“We deserved the victory. It was a heart-stopping game but I'm pleased with my players' performance. It doesn't always happen that Udinese wins at San Siro. To be at the top is marvellous, we're picking up more and more points.”
Edinson Cavani scored another brace for Napoli. Ezequiel Lavezzi and Blerim Dzemaili were also on target. Luis Muriel and Daniele Corvia grabbed consolation goals for Lecce. Lecce general manager Renato Cipollini said the club could decide to to part company with coach Eusebio Di Francesco.
“We'll take 24-48 hours to decide and reflect deeply on the situation and on how we can turn around this team which we think has the qualities to save itself,” Cipollini said. “I won't go into details about a possible new coach, but if there is one he will have a contract until the end of the season.
“Today we deserved to lose even if we had some good periods of play. We created some good things up front.”
Udinese leveled on points with provisional leader Milan but Juventus can move two points clear if it beats Cesena on Sunday. Inter remains four points above the drop zone.
Napoli is fifth, seven points behind Milan.
“We tried to put Udinese in difficulty but their players were good and hit us on the counterattack,” Inter coach Claudio Ranieri said. “Now we have to try to roll up our sleeves and see what to do.
“It's a pity because this game could have been the turning point. But we'll continue to work hard, as we are doing. I'm always confident but we have to aim for something. If we're getting too far away from the title there are other things to aim for and we have to try and get close to them.”
Inter's best chance came in the 16th minute when a smart one-two released Diego Milito but he shot over the bar.
Di Natale did wonderfully well shortly before the hour mark to muscle his way past three Inter defenders on the edge of the area, but his shot was off target.
He went even closer seconds later as he controlled a throw-in 25 meters out before turning and surprising everyone with a swerving shot which Julio Cesar did well to stop.
Udinese was looking more dangerous and Isla should have given it the lead in the 69th minute. The Chile defender broke the offside trap and was one on one with Julio Cesar. He should have shot but he instead passed to Di Natale who was offside.
Isla did score shortly after. Di Natale found Antonio Floro Flores on the edge of the area and he held up the ball well before setting up the overlapping Isla who fired across Julio Cesar and into the far corner.
There was late drama as Zanetti fouled Kwadwo Asamoah in the area. The Inter captain was dismissed for a second bookable offense. However, Julio Cesar dove smartly to his left to keep out Di Natale's spot kick.
Inter looked to have rescued an unlikely point when it was handed a penalty of its own when Milito was brought down by a scything tackle from Ferronetti. But Pazzini slipped in his run up and blasted over the crossbar.
Lecce was managing to control the game before Napoli broke the deadlock in the 26th minute. Lavezzi stunned Massimo Oddo on the left flank with a series of dribbles, before making his way into the area and firing in off the body of Lecce goalkeeper Massimiliano Benassi.
Cavani doubled Napoli's lead seven minutes later. Napoli extended its lead four minutes from the break when a cross was cleared by the Lecce defense but only as far as Dzemaili who lashed it in from the outside of the area.
Nine minutes into the second half, Lecce's Muriel latched onto Djamel Mesbah's lofted pass and rounded Napoli defender Salvatore Aronica before firing past Napoli goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis.
All hope Lecce had of getting back into the game ended when Napoli notched its fourth of the night. Lavezzi sent a low ball across the face of goal to Cavani who fired into an empty net for his fifth goal in his past three games.
Lecce did score again, with the last action of the game, when Corvia headed home a corner kick.