Rome: Napoli's up and down season took another lunge toward the summit on Sunday with a 2-1 win at Parma, which hadn't lost at home all season. Edinson Cavani scored the winner in the 85th minute to move Napoli within three points of Serie A leader Juventus, which were held to a 1-1 draw by Genoa on Saturday. Napoli are chasing their first title since Diego Maradona led the southern club to Serie A championships in 1987 and 1990.
It's been a wild season for the club with some of Italy's most passionate fans. In December, Napoli were penalised two points for match-fixing after their former goalkeeper, Matteo Gianello, confessed to attempting to fix the result of a game with Sampdoria three seasons ago. But the penalty was lifted on appeal earlier this month, as were bans imposed on club captain Paolo Cannavaro and defender Gianluca Grava.
This was the first match back for both players. Marek Hamsik put Napoli ahead 20 minutes in at the Ennio Tardini stadium, using one touch to redirect a pass from Blerim Dzemaili. At the start of the second half, Parma took the momentum and equalized when Cannavaro deflected in a cross from Parma's Nicola Sansone in the 75th for an own goal.
Ten minutes later, Naples-born Lorenzo Insigne provided a perfect through ball for Cavani, who dribbled around the goalkeeper for his league-leading 18th goal of the season, thus snapping Parma's 15-match unbeaten streak at home. After slumping in November and most of December, Napoli have gone unbeaten in their last five matches and are looking more and more like a legitimate title threat as they approach a home match with Juventus on March 1.
Elsewhere Sunday, AC Milan beat 10-man Atalanta 1-0 with a 29th-minute strike from 20-year-old Stephen El Shaarawy, who has 15 goals to stand second on the scoring chart behind Cavani. Atalanta's Davide Brivio picked up his second yellow card in the 59th for a foul on Giampaolo Pazzini.
Milan are fifth, 12 points back. Ten-man Fiorentina dropped to sixth after a 2-1 loss at Catania. Giulio Migliaccio gave Fiorentina the lead in the 21st and Nicola Legrottaglie equalised for Catania in the 50th, with both goals coming on headers. Fiorentina midfielder Alberto Aquilani was sent off with a direct red for vehement protests in the 80th and Lucas Castro scored the winner for Catania in the 88th with a header, making it a bittersweet return for Fiorentina manager Vincenzo Montella to the club he managed last season.
In the lunchtime fixture, Roma was fortunate to come away with a 3-3 draw at Bologna, where Alessandro Diamanti hit both the post and crossbar for the hosts in the final minutes. Greece midfielder Panagiotis Tachtsidis equalised for Roma in the 74th by heading in a free kick from Francesco Totti.
Diamanti, who showed glimpses of brilliance in Italy's squad at the European Championship, hit the post with a powerful long shot in the 87th then found the crossbar with an equally powerful and long free kick in the fourth minute of added time. Alessandro Florenzi had given Roma the lead in the ninth after also taking a pass from Totti. Bologna forward Alberto Gilardino then made it 1-1 in the 17th but Pablo Osvaldo restored Roma's lead a minute later.
Manolo Gabbiadini equalised for Bologna in the 26th to make it 2-2, then Cristian Pasquato put Bologna ahead in the 54th by taking advantage of a defensive blunder. While Roma beat Inter Milan in the first leg of the Italian Cup semi-finals on Wednesday, the Giallorossi extended their winless streak to four in Serie A.
Fourth-place Inter Milan (12-6-4), which is nine points back, was held to a 2-2 tie by visiting Torino. Christian Chivu gave Inter the lead in fifth with a free kick but left in the 28th with an apparent injury. Goals by Riccardo Meggiorini in the 23rd and 52nd minutes put Torino ahead but Esteban Cambiasso tied the score for Inter when he redirecting a cross from 39-year-old captain Javier Zanetti in the 67th.
In other matches, Argentine forward Mauro Icardi scored four goals as Sampdoria routed Pescara 6-0; Cagliari drew 1-1 with Palermo 1; and Udinese beat last-place Siena 1-0. While most of his goals Sunday were facilitated by Pescara's porous defense, the 19-year-old Icardi also scored twice against Juventus earlier this season and his pedigree is rising fast.