MILAN — Napoli and Juventus both recorded narrow victories against relegation-threatened sides to remain first and second in Serie A on Sunday ahead of their showdown in Turin next weekend.
Second-place Juventus, which beat Frosinone 2-0, appeared to be on the verge of moving level at the top when Juan Cuadrado broke the deadlock in the 73rd minute with the score still goalless in the Napoli-Carpi match.
Gonzalo Higuain then converted a penalty against 10-man Carpi moments later for his 24th goal in 24 league matches this season as Napoli went on to win 1-0.
"It’s a source of pride for us to be above Juve and we’re happy to be able to play this kind of battle," Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri said. "If we draw at the end of a difficult game, OK, but I would not sign beforehand for it. I want to go there to play. They will be stronger than us but we have to have the chutzpah to go to Turin and play football."
There was a touching moment before the match as Napoli fans held up prints of Kalidou Koulibaly’s face in a show of support after the team’s defender was racially abused by Lazio fans in midweek.
Napoli remained two points ahead of Juventus, with Inter Milan missing the chance to move third after a 3-3 draw at Hellas Verona.
"The lads were great and now we have a week to prepare the match against Napoli," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. "But then there will still be another 13 matches left, the season is long. It will be a really lovely battle, a direct clash, but it will not decide the title."
Roma narrowed the gap to the final Champions League spot with a 2-1 win against Sampdoria, moving a point behind Inter and two below Fiorentina.
Samp almost snatched a last-minute point as Mattia Cassani hit the crossbar in stoppage time.
Elsewhere, AC Milan failed to make it three in a row as it was held 1-1 against Udinese.
Sassuolo drew 2-2 against 10-man Palermo and Chievo Verona won 2-1 at Torino, while Atalanta and Empoli ended 0-0.
After matching its club record of seven consecutive victories against Lazio, Napoli’s team was looking to make history against Carpi.
Napoli could have had a penalty in the first half for a clear tug on Jose Callejon’s shirt by Stefano Sabelli.
Callejon was further upset early in the second half when he had the ball in the net but it was ruled out for offside.
It was Carpi’s turn to feel aggrieved in the 56th when Paolo Bianco was sent off for a second yellow card when it appeared to be more Cristian Zaccardo’s foul than his on Lorenzo Insigne.
Zaccardo appeared to be telling the referee this as he and his teammates surrounded the official but Bianco was dismissed.
However, the referee got it right when he awarded Napoli a penalty after Fabio Daprela hauled down Koulibaly. Higuain fired confidently into the bottom left, scoring for the sixth successive round.
Juventus also extended its club record winning streak to 14 in a row. The record in Serie A is Inter’s 17-match run in 2006-07.
It was surprisingly hard work for Juventus but Frosinone’s resistance was breaking down slowly, with Paulo Dybala hitting the post moments before the opening goal.
Alex Sandro’s ball was allowed to go across the face of goal for an unmarked Cuadrado to curl into the far side of the net.
Juve sealed the result in stoppage time when Alvaro Morata burst through the middle and unselfishly rolled it across for Dybala to finish off.
Verona was bottom of the table but unbeaten in its past four matches and finally recorded its first win of the season midweek. That round also saw Inter end a four-match winless run that had seen it fall off the top spot.
Verona had not beaten Inter in any competition in 24 years but it took a 3-1 lead just before the hour mark after headers from Filip Helander, Eros Pisano and Artur Ionita following Jeison Murillo’s opener for Inter.
However, Mauro Icardi reduced the deficit in the 61st and Ivan Perisic levelled the match 12 minutes from time.
Both sides had chances to grab a winner in the final minutes with Gilberto also hitting the post for Verona.