Champions League race wide open as nine-man Lazio lose

Cesena were relegated after one season, losing 3-2 at home to Sassuolo, but only after Franco Brienza scored a goal that was reminiscent of Lionel Messi’s second effort for Barcelona against Bayern Munich on Wednesday.


Collecting the ball on the right, Brienza turned inside Federico Peluso and left the defender on the ground before dinking the ball into the net, just like Messi did to Jerome Boateng at the Nou Camp.

AS Roma’s 2-1 defeat at AC Milan on Saturday left Lazio with a chance to go second and they appeared on course when Antonio Candreva game them an eighth minute lead.

But the game turned completely when Lazio defender Mauricio was sent off for pulling back goalbound Rodrigo Palacio and Hernanes curled in the resulting free kick in the 26th minute.

Lazio were in more trouble on the hour when goalkeeper Federico Marchetti upended Mauro Icardi and was sent off. However, substitute goalkeeper Etrit Berishi provided another twist by saving Icardi’s weak penalty with his first touch.

The Albanian, however, was powerless when Hernanes broke clear to score the winner with six minutes left and give seventh-placed Inter a faint chance of European football next season, albeit in the much-maligned Europa League.


Roma stayed second with 64 points followed by Lazio (63) and Napoli (60). Juventus (80), having already wrapped up the title, drew 1-1 at home to relegation-bound Cagliari on Saturday.

The top two go into the Champions League group stage and third place earns a spot in the final qualifying round.

Europa League semi-finalists Napoli, who have struggled for consistency all season, suffered an early setback when goalkeeper Mariano Andujar misjudged a corner and Raffaele Palladino scored into an empty net.

Manolo Gabbiadini equalised in the 28th minute only for Cristobal Jorquera to fire Parma back in front with a 25-metre effort.

Parma goalkeeper Antonio Mirante kept Napoli at bay until Dries Mertens levelled with an individual goal midway through the second half.

The game ended with a flare-up between Napoli forward Gonzalo Higuain and Mirante with the recriminations continuing afterwards.

“We heard unfair and scandalous words, from players and directors of Napoli,” Palladino told reporters. “We were told that we were failures, that we had been relegated and we shouldn’t be playing with cunning and determination.”


Napoli coach Rafael Benitez and his players continued a month-long media blackout but the club said in a statement that their only complaints had been about Parma time-wasting.

Mohamed Salah scored another outstanding individual goal to help Fiorentina win 3-2 at Empoli, twisting his way past two bewildered defenders to score his side’s second goal.

Josip Ilicic grabbed the other two as fifth-placed Fiorentina continued their push towards the Europa League.

Sampdoria won 4-1 at Udinese while Verona’s Luca Toni, 37, scored his 19th goal of the season, leaving him one behind Serie A top scorer Carlos Tevez, to help his side draw 2-2 at neighbours Chievo.

Brienza’s goal put Cesena 2-0 up against Sassuolo but the visitors stunned them with three goals in 21 minutes after halftime.

Cesena also needed Atalanta to drop points at Palermo and were condemned to Serie B when the Sicilian hosts rested top scorer Paulo Dybala, who they are hoping to sell at the end of the season, and lost 3-2.

(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; editing by Toby Davis/Mark Meadows)