ROME: Veteran striker Edin Dzeko scored a late winner to earn Roma a battling 1-0 win over Sampdoria in Serie A on Sunday (Jan 3), keeping his side third in the standings, while two fantastic Piotr Zielinski goals steered Napoli to a 4-1 win at Cagliari.
Elsewhere on a busy afternoon of Serie A action after a winter break Atalanta thrashed high-flying Sassuolo 5-1 and Lazio were held to a 1-1 draw at Genoa.
Having seen Inter go top of the table with a 6-2 win over Crotone in the day's early kick-off, Roma looked set to fall behind in the title race as they laboured in torrential rain in the capital, failing to create any real chances in the first half.
However, moments after former Manchester United defender Chris Smalling had headed against the crossbar, the 34-year-old Dzeko scored his third goal in as many games in the 72nd minute to settle a tight contest and leave Roma seven points off the top.
"It is important to win in this way," Roma coach Paulo Fonseca said. "We played well against an opponent who closes well and starts on the counter attack.
"I liked the form in which we played all the moments of the game. It is the most balanced game we have played."
Napoli, looking for their first win in four league games, moved back into the top four in style with a thrashing of Cagliari.
Zielinski gave his side the lead with an arrowing, left-footed strike, before Joao Pedro equalised on the hour mark.
However, Zielinski was not done there, and he danced through the home backline two minutes later to put Napoli back in front, with a goal by Hirving Lozano and a penalty from Lorenzo Insigne making the victory more comfortable.
LAZIO STUTTER AGAIN
Lazio, having endured a miserable start to the season, had held high hopes of victory at Genoa, who were languishing in the relegation zone at the start of the day.
After Ciro Immobile had given this side the lead from the penalty spot in the 15th minute - his 14th goal in his last 14 games - Lazio looked set to earn only their second win in six matches in all competitions.
They could not build on their lead, however, mustering just two further shots on target as Mattia Destro earned Genoa a point in the 58th minute, leaving Lazio ninth in the standings.
"We had an excellent first half," Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi said. "Unfortunately, we only scored one goal and then we suffered at the start of the second half. We leave here with a lot of disappointment."
Serie A surprise package Sassuolo got a rude awakening at Atalanta, who rained in 23 shots in their rampant win, climbing to within a point of their rivals in sixth place in the standings, having played one game fewer.
Torino were another side to win convincingly, 3-0 at Parma, while Fiorentina were held to a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Bologna.
In the day's late matches, AC Milan climbed back to the top of the table after a 2-0 win at Benevento, while Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Juventus beat Udinese 4-1 in Turin.