A 70th minute own goal from Lazio defender Paolo Negro gave Serie A leaders AS Roma a 1-0 victory in the Rome derby on Sunday. Lazio had the only chance of a tightly-fought first half when Diego Simeone’s header from a Pavel Nedved corner was well saved by Roma keeper Cristiano Lupatelli.
Gabriel Batistuta went close for Roma in the 66th minute with a powerful 25 metre free kick which Lazio keeper Angelo Peruzzi did well to tip over.
But four minutes later Fabio Capello’s side grabbed the winner when Peruzzi parried out a Cristiano Zanetti header and Alessandro Nesta’s attempted clearance struck Negro and bounced over the line. Lazio almost grabbed an equaliser 10 minutes from the end when Nedved struck the bar with a thundering drive from a Sinisa Mihajlovic short-corner.
Meanwhile, Atalanta and Juventus kept up the pressure on Serie A leaders AS Roma with wins on Sunday, while Inter and AC Milan were both held to draws.
Roma, who lead by three points, face Lazio in the Rome derby later on Sunday.
Juventus moved into second place, ahead of Atalanta on goal difference, with a convincing 4-1 win at Lecce.
Filippo Inzaghi, recalled in place of the injured Alessandro Del Piero, opened the scoring after a perfect through ball from Zinedine Zidane and Juve doubled their lead through in-form David Trezeguet who drove home his sixth goal of the season from close range.
Lecce had defender David Balleri sent off in the 39th minute but battled hard after the break and Rodolfo Giorgetti brought them back into the game with a powerful strike in the 70th minute.
But late goals from substitutes Darko Kovacevic and Gianluca Zambrotta ensured three points for Juve, who now face a crunch showdown with Roma on Friday.
Atalanta, promoted from Serie B in the summer, could hardly have expected to be heading into Christmas in the top three but they again demonstrated they are much more than flash in the pan with a hard fought 1-0 win at Bologna.
The Bergamo side have won admirers for their commitment to youth but it was two Serie A veterans who forged the breakthrough seven minutes from the end when Maurizio Ganz slid home a cross from Marco Nappi.
Ganz’s old club AC Milan lost ground after they could only manage a 1-1 draw at Verona.
Emiliano Bonazzoli put Verona ahead in the fourth minute but Milan drew level 18 minutes later when midfielder Massimo Ambrosini rose well to head home a Francesco Coco cross.
Inter Milan dropped to eleventh place after a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Roberto Baggio’s Brescia.
Baggio, making his first return to the San Siro after joining Brescia from Inter in the close-season, twice went close with long-range efforts and while Inter coach Marco Tardelli will be relieved that the former Italy international was kept off the score-sheet, the result confirms all is still far from well at the troubled Milan club.
Parma drop to eighth after suffering a shock 2-0 home defeat to Vicenza, for whom Luca Toni scored both goals, while Udinese’s slump in form continued with a 3-1 home defeat to Fiorentina — their fourth consecutive league reverse.
Udinese went ahead through Dane Martin Jorgensen, but Fiorentina drew level with a delightful strike from the rejuvenated Enrico Chiesa before going ahead thanks to an own-goal from Andrea Sottil in the 65th minute.
Two minutes later Portuguese midfielder Rui Costa made sure of the points when he added the third after a poor clearance from Udinese keeper Luigi Turci landed straight at his feet.
France Nantes joined Sedan at the top of the French first division Sunday, beating low-ranked Toulouse 3-2 on three second-half goals. Toulouse was first to score, as Colombian winger Victor Bonilla converted an Alfredo Cascini pass in the 43rd minute for his tenth goal this season. But when Nantes counterattacked, the Toulouse defense was nowhere to be seen. Nestor Fabbri scored three minutes after the break, and teammates Olivier Monterrubio and Viorel Moldovan followed his example in the 58th and 67th minutes. Nicolas Dieuze scored Toulouse’s second goal three minutes before the end, too late for the side to avoid defeat. Sedan and Nantes now have 36 points, followed by Bordeaux on 35. In other first division action Sunday, an own-goal by Bastia defender Frederic Mendy saved Paris Saint-Germain from defeat, as the two sides drew 1-1. Bastia outclassed the big-spending Parisian club throughout the match, putting PSG goalkeeper Lionel Letizi under constant pressure. The Corsican team had added incentive to play an offensive game after Mendy’s own-goal in the 24th minute. Frederic Nee made up for the error, lobbing the ball over Letizi to equalize in the 57th minute. But Bastia’s disorganized attack missed out on several scoring opportunities, and crisis-ridden PSG escaped with a draw. PSG’s star striker Nicolas Anelka provided plenty of fancy footwork, but rarely threatened the Bastia goal. Spain Valencia regained the leadership in the Spanish first division Sunday, beating Malaga 2-0 and pushing Real Madrid back to second place. A deft backpass from Valencia midfielder Vicente Rodriguez to Norwegian striker John Carew produced Valencia’s first goal in the 42nd minute. In the 73rd minute, midfielder Ruben Baraja fired the ball home after a rapidly taken free-kick, taking advantage of a confusion in Malaga’s defense following a foul. Sunday’s matches also saw Celta de Vigo and Mallorca drawing 2-2, Oviedo defeating Racing de Santander 1-0, Valladolid and Athletic de Bilbao playing to a goalles draw and Osasuna beating Numancia 2-0. Valencia leads with 31 points, followed by Real with 29 and Deportivo with 28.
Celta 2, Mallorca 2 Celta and Mallorca tied 2-2 in a match that saw three of Mallorca’s goals disallowed and one of its players sent off. Fancy footwork by Brazilian-born Spanish national team striker Catahna earned Celta a goal in the 14th minute. Ariel Ibagaza equalized 10 minutes later. Then Mallorca’s Alberto Luque, Nigerian midfielder Finidi George and French defender Armando Alvarez each had goals disallowed while Alvarez was sent off on two yellow cards shortly after. Celta’s second goal arrived in the 77th minute thanks to a fast maneuver by Yugoslav defender Goran Djorovic. But Mallorca defender Javier Olaizola clinched the tie in the 89th minute. Mallorca drops to seventh place with 23 points, while Celta, at No. 11 in the 20-team first division, has 19 points.
Oviedo 1, Racing de Santander 0 Racing goalkeeper Jose Maria Ceballos got a hand to a ball fired by Oviedo’s Yugoslav midfielder Djorje Tomic but was unable to stop it crossing the line in the 31st minute. The win keeps Oviedo at No. 8 with 23 points. Racing, with 13 points, fell from 17th to 18th place.
Valladolid 0, Athletic de Bilbao 0 The scoreless match pushed Valladolid down from No.