MILAN (Reuters) – AS Roma defeated AC Milan 1-0 in the battle for second place in Serie A on Monday after M’Baye Niang missed a penalty for the second game running for the visitors.
Radja Nainggolan scored the only goal just past the hour mark after Niang, who had squandered a penalty in the previous week’s 2-1 win over Crotone, saw his spot kick saved by Wojciech Szczesny in the first half.
The two sides had begun level on 32 points but Roma’s win left them alone in second place, four points behind leaders and titleholders Juventus who they visit on Saturday.
Earlier, Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic netted an outrageous volley and a cheeky backheel as they beat Sassuolo 2-1.
At the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, there were few clear-cut openings but Milan were gifted a chance to go in front when Gianluca Lapadula was clumsily tripped by Szczesny when the Milan forward was running into a dead end.
The Polish goalkeeper made up for his mistake by diving to his left to save Niang’s weak side-footed effort, producing the biggest cheer of the night from the home fans.
Roma were badly missing forward Mohamed Salah, who is out with an ankle injury, and looked unlikely to break through until Nainggolan conjured a goal out of nothing in the 62nd minute.
The heavily tattoed Belgian collected the ball near the touchline, was allowed to run unchecked towards the middle of the pitch and unleashed a curling left foot shot which flew past Gianluigi Donnarumma from the edge of the area.
In the earlier kick off, Kalinic opened the scoring in the 10th minute with a technically brilliant effort.
Josip Ilicic’s free kick hit the Sassuolo wall before looping into the penalty area and, as it dropped over Kalinic’s shoulder, he hooked it into the opposite corner of the goal.
Six minutes before halftime Federico Chiesa sent a low cross into the penalty box and Kalinic flicked the ball in with his heel for his eighth league goal of the season.
Francesco Acerbi pulled one back for sixth from bottom Sassuolo in the 76th minute, scoring from 10 metres after the ball had ricocheted around in the area.
Seventh-placed Fiorentina had to endure a nervy finale and Federico Ricci almost equalised with a long-range volley but Ciprian Tatarusanu managed to grab the ball under the bar.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Tony Jimenez and Ken Ferris)