Juventus’ bid for an eighth consecutive Serie A title was given a boost on Saturday after title-chasing Napoli were held to a goalless draw by bottom club Chievo.
Carlo Ancelotti’s second-placed side needed a win to maintain the six-point gap between them and leaders Juventus, but could not find a way past Chievo in the Stadio San Paulo just days before hosting Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League.
Napoli are now eight points behind Juventus, who beat SPAL 2-0 on Saturday with goals from in-form Cristiano Ronaldo and Mario Mandzukic.
Inter Milan are a further point back in third following their comfortable 3-0 win over second-from-bottom Frosinone.
“There’s no point looking at the Serie A table now. We’ll look and evaluate at the halfway point,” said Ancelotti.
“We were too bland in everything we did today — in construction, ball recovery and finishing, which allowed Chievo to play a defensive game.
“But it was a good test ahead of Wednesday’s match against the Red Star. The tactical theme against Red Star will be the same.”
Ancelotti’s side were frustrated by the side from Verona, who were playing their first game under new coach Domenico Di Carlo, their third manager this season following Lorenzo D’Anna — sacked in October — and former Italy boss Gian Piero Ventura, who quit after just four games.
Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino pulled off some fine saves, but was largely helped by Napoli’s wastefulness in front of goal.
A Lorenzo Insigne curling shot hit the post after 75 minutes with towering Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly missed the chance to snatch a late winner when his over-head kick from a corner shot just wide.
“We’ve rediscovered the Chievo spirit,” said Di Carlo, whose side now have one point from 13 games after being deducted three for false accounting.
“We were a bit defensive today, we know, but we also found the courage to go into the opposing area.
“I have to put in the lads’ heads that we are strong, a team fighting. I told them to aim to be the surprise of the day.”
Promoted Parma soar
Parma, back in Serie A this season for the first time since 2015 after three straight promotions, beat Sassuolo 2-1 to overtake their local rivals in the table and move into the Europa League places in sixth with 20 points.
Ivorian Gervinho opened the scoring after six minutes at the Stadio Tardini, with Bruno Alves adding a second after 25 minutes.
Khouma Babacar pulled one back for Sassuolo from the spot after 36 minutes after being brought down by Alves.
Babacar looked destined to equalise two minutes from time when Parma goalkeeper Luigi Sepe fumbled a cross but Alves cleared off the line to save the home sides.
Elsewhere Empoli came from two goals down to end Atalanta’s four-match winning streak with a last-gasp 3-2 win which moves them out of the relegation zone at the expense of Bologna, who held Fiorentina to a goalless draw.
Matias Silvestre headed in Empoli’s winner two minutes into injury time, after an Antonino La Gumina strike and an Andrea Masiello own goal had hauled the Tuscan side back into the game.
It gave Empoli back-to-back wins for the first time this season under new coach Giuseppe Iachini, who sat in the stands after a touchline ban for uttering a blasphemous phrase in his first game against Udinese before the international break.
Remo Freuler gave Atalanta the lead after 33 minutes, with Hans Hateboer slotting in the second five minutes before the break after Francesco Caputo missed a penalty for Empoli.
But two minutes later La Gumina pulled one back, adding a second on 77 minutes before Silvestre grabbed the three points.
© Agence France-Presse