| Crespo scored the winner for Inter
Milan: Two goals from Alessandro Del Piero helped Serie A leaders Juventus take an important step towards their 27th Italian title on Saturday with a 2-1 win over AS Roma as rivals AC Milan look out of the race after they lost 1-0 at home to 10-man Empoli.
But Inter Milan kept the pressure on the defending champions after an injury-time goal from substitute Hernan Crespo gave them a 1-0 win at Brescia after Inter’s Cristiano Zanetti and Christian Vieri and Brescia’s Fabio Bilica had been sent off.
With five games of the season remaining Juventus have 64 points, second-placed Inter are on 58, while Milan, beaten by a 12th minute goal from Antonio Di Natale, trail Juve by nine points in third place.
All three of the sides fighting for the fourth Champions League spot enjoyed home wins — Lazio beating Piacenza 2-1, Chievo winning 2-1 against Reggina and Parma defeating Torino 1-0 thanks to an Adrian Mutu penalty.
If Juventus were going to stumble in the run-in then 2000 champions Roma were the most likely side to trip them up but Marcello Lippi’s team delivered another solid display.
Del Piero thumped home a penalty in the 31st minute after Pavel Nedved had gone down under a challenge from Roma’s Argentine defender Leandro Cufre.
Del Piero was on target again eight minutes later — drilling the ball home after a swift break and cross from Nedved. Vincenzo Montella brought Roma back with a goal just before the break after a mix-up between Nedved and Lilian Thuram allowed in Francesco Totti whose cut-back was converted by Montella.
After clawing themselves back into the battle for the Scudetto with recent wins over Juventus and Inter, Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan look to have thrown all that work away with their first home defeat of the season. Empoli, hovering above the relegation zone, took the lead when Tommaso Rocchi burst down the right flank, beat Alessandro Nesta and saw his low cross to the back-post slotted home by Di Natale.
Milan striker Filippo Inzaghi missed two good chances for a swift reply and then Empoli goalkeeper Gianluca Berti produced an excellent save just before the break to keep out a volley from Jon Dahl Tomasson. Empoli had Francesco Pratali sent off for a second bookable offence in the 70th minute and that prompted an intense wave of attacks from Milan.
A brilliant double save from Berti foiled Inzaghi and Tomasson but the Empoli keeper made his best save five minutes from the end when he reacted superbly to keep out an effort from Danish international Tomasson.
If Milan were cursing their luck, Inter were thankful for their own good fortune at the end of a bad-tempered game at Brescia.
Inter coach Hector Cuper left strikers Vieri and Crespo on the bench but both were to play key roles in the second half.
Inter’s Zanetti was dismissed in the 33rd minute when he protested against a yellow card and was shown a red for his troubles. Vieri and Bilica were given their marching orders after an ugly clash in the 62nd minute in which Brescia’s Brazilian defender raised his hand to the Inter striker and Vieri responded with what appeared to be an attempted headbutt.
Deep into injury time Inter grabbed the win, though, when Javier Zanetti had a shot blocked and Crespo reacted quickly to fire home the loose ball.