MILAN — Napoli moved back to the top of Serie A with a 1-0 win at Udinese on Sunday but it was tougher than the title hopefuls would have expected.
Jorginho scored the only goal of the match after his penalty had been saved to send Napoli two points above Inter Milan, which won 3-1 at Cagliari on Saturday.
“Today we didn’t do very well in terms of quality and moving the ball around, but the Udinese pitch didn’t help us,” Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri said. “The stadium is very nice but the pitch is really not up to top-flight football.
“But in past years we would have had more difficulty in such matches.”
Third-place Juventus beat Crotone 3-0 later to cut the gap to Napoli back to four points ahead of their meeting on Friday.
Title rival Roma was surprisingly held 1-1 at relegation-threatened Genoa in a match that saw Daniele De Rossi sent off.
“I don’t think they will feel any pressure, the table is very tight,” Sarri said. “It will be an important match … we will give everything but I think it’s over the top to think it will be decisive for the standings in seven months.”
Napoli had scored 34 goals in its previous 13 matches but struggled to create goalscoring opportunities.
However, its pressure paid off shortly after the half-hour mark when Christian Maggio was brought down by Gabriele Angella in the area.
Jorginho’s weak penalty was easily saved by Simone Scuffet but the Udinese goalkeeper couldn’t hold onto the ball and the Italy midfielder tucked away the rebound.
Udinese tested Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina on a couple of occasions but Massimo Oddo’s debut ended in defeat. The 41-year-old coach had replaced the fired Luigi Delneri on Tuesday.
DEFIANT DE SCIGLIO
Fullback Mattia De Sciglio took a big step toward endearing himself to critical Juventus fans with a powerful strike in a 3-0 win over Crotone.
Three minutes after he came on midway through the second half, De Sciglio scored with a long, rising shot from outside the area.
It was his first goal as a professional in a combined 173 matches for AC Milan, Juventus and Italy’s national team.
Mario Mandzukic had put Juventus ahead with a header eight minutes earlier and then Medhi Benatia added another goal from close range.
Fans were highly critical of De Sciglio’s transfer from AC Milan in July as a replacement for the departed Dani Alves.
Despite five solid seasons at Milan, the 25-year-old De Sciglio was seen as lacking in skill compared to Alves, who joined Paris Saint-Germain.
DE ROSSI SEES RED
Roma had won its last six meetings with Genoa, home and away, but was frustrated at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.
Stephan El Shaarawy broke the deadlock just before the hour, firing Alessandro Florenzi’s delightful cross into the bottom left corner.
However, the match changed eight minutes later when, with Roma seemingly in control, De Rossi was sent off for slapping Gianluca Lapadula in the face.
Lapadula converted the resulting penalty.
“It’s a moment that I’m incredibly sorry about,” De Rossi said. “There’s not much to say: we were tussling, I tried to block him with an arm. The footage is ugly.
“I have to apologize to my teammates, the coach and the fans. I am very sorry, but we will have to bounce back from this.”
Roma could have won the match late on but Kevin Strootman hit the crossbar.
The capital side slipped seven points behind Napoli, although it has a game in hand.
“Daniele did something stupid. He’s not a kid, he knows how much it cost us,” Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco said.
City rival Lazio was held to a 1-1 draw at home by Fiorentina — another disappointing result after last weekend’s derby loss to Roma.
After Stefan de Vrij’s early opener, Fiorentina equalized with a penalty from Khouma Babacar in added time that was given by the video assistant referee.
MONTELLA UNDER PRESSURE
AC Milan faltered again as it was held to a 0-0 draw at home to Torino, piling more pressure on coach Vincenzo Montella.
Milan, which spent more than 200 million euros (nearly $250 million) on new players in the offseason, has won just two of its past nine matches.
Milan’s Nikola Kalinic hit the post early on.
More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA
AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed.