ROME — Juventus wasted a chance to clinch a record sixth straight Serie A title with a 3-1 loss at rival Roma on Sunday.
Stephan El Shaarawy put Roma 2-1 ahead early in the second half with a long, low shot that was deflected by Juventus fullback Stephan Lichtsteiner. Radja Nainggolan added another for the hosts to hand the Bianconeri their first league loss since a defeat to Fiorentina in January.
Mario Lemina was set up by Gonzalo Higuain to give Juventus the lead midway through the first half but Daniele De Rossi equalized for Roma four minutes later.
With two rounds remaining, Juventus’ lead over Roma was reduced to four points. Napoli is third, one point further back, after its 5-0 rout of Torino earlier.
“This was a huge win, especially because we were able to stay ahead of Napoli,” De Rossi said, referring to the race for second and the final direct entry to the Champions League group phase.
“There were a thousand difficulties,” De Rossi said. “We knew that (Juventus) needing only a draw, if they wanted to defend or close down that they’re experts at that. … So tonight it’s just happiness and joy. We can’t stop trying although we’ve got to be realists.”
It was the third straight match in Serie A that Juventus failed to win, after draws with Atalanta and Torino.
Juventus’ last two matches are against relegation-threatened Crotone and Bologna.
Since Serie A was founded in 1929, no club has won more than five straight titles.
Set to face Lazio in the Italian Cup final on Wednesday and Real Madrid in the Champions League final next month, Juventus is aiming for a treble.
Perhaps with those fixtures in mind, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri chose to rest standout playmaker Paulo Dybala.
After a strong start from Roma, Juventus fullback Kwadwo Asamoah hit the post seven minutes into a fast-paced first half.
Higuain met a long pass from Stefano Sturaro at the edge of the goalbox with a volley that enabled Lemina to bang the ball in.
Then De Rossi knocked in a close-range rebound from a header by Kostas Manolas.
Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon appeared confused by Lichtsteiner’s deflection when he was beaten by El Shaarawy’s shot, which deflected in off the far post.
Nainggolan, who had been a questionable starter due to a calf injury, then traded passes with Mohamed Salah before evading two defenders — including former Roma teammate Miralem Pjanic — to beat Buffon inside the near post.
Allegri sent on Dybala after falling behind 3-1 and the Argentina international appeared to have earned a penalty in added time but the referee said to play on.
Earlier, Jose Callejon scored twice and Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Piotr Zielinski added goals for Napoli, which extended its unbeaten streak to 10 matches.
INTER MILAN 1, SASSUOLO 2
If Antonio Conte really does leave newly crowned English Premier League champion Chelsea for Inter Milan, he’s going to be charged with pulling off quite a turnaround.
Inter’s crisis deepened with a loss at home to Sassuolo that extended its winless streak to eight matches and included a walkout by its most ardent supporters.
Twenty minutes in with the score 0-0 during the lunchtime fixture, hard-core “ultra” fans unfurled a banner that read, “Since you don’t deserve our support, today we’re saluting you and going to eat.” The “ultras” then exited the San Siro stadium while the remaining fans applauded.
Inter’s fourth straight loss came in the first match since Stefano Pioli was fired and youth team coach Stefano Vecchi was put in charge. The Nerazzurri have not won since March.
Pietro Iemmello scored twice for Sassuolo before substitute Eder pulled one back for Inter.
The loss left Inter eighth and likely out of the Europa League places.
“I understand the fans,” Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic said. “I’ve been here for five years and I always see the same situations. They’re right. Inter shouldn’t be seventh or eighth like it’s been for five years. Patience can only last so long. … This is the worst moment since I’ve been here.”
Inter has not finished better than fourth since coming runner-up in 2011.
Vecchi is Inter’s fourth coach since August, when Roberto Mancini resigned surprisingly weeks before the season started. Frank de Boer guided the club until November, when Pioli was hired.
Media reports claim Conte is considering taking over Inter for next season.
“Right now there’s a situation and environment of great negativity which can also be felt on the pitch,” Vecchi said. “It’s normal that there’s a protest like this. The squad shouldn’t be in eighth place so it’s normal that the fans express their disappointment.”
Genoa, Empoli and Crotone are still fighting to avoid becoming the final relegated team.
Crotone kept its hopes alive with a 1-0 win over Udinese while Genoa lost 1-0 at Palermo and Empoli was defeated 3-2 at Cagliari.
With two rounds remaining, Genoa has 33 points, Empoli 32 and Crotone 31.
Also, Sampdoria and Chievo Verona drew 1-1 and Bologna beat last-placed Pescara 3-1.
Palermo and Pescara have already been mathematically relegated.