Juve's lead cut to three after Lazio stalemate

April 22, 2006

MILAN, April 22 (Reuters) - The Serie A title race came alive on Saturday as Juventus had their lead cut to three points after being held to a 1-1 draw at home by Lazio and second placed AC Milan kept up the pressure with a 3-1 win at Messina.

With three matches remaining Juventus have 82 points, with Milan on 79 and third-placed Inter Milan, who beat Reggina 4-0, on 74 points.

Juve needed an 86th minute goal from French striker David Trezeguet to get their fifth successive draw.

Tomasso Rocchi had put Lazio ahead in the 29th minute but Lazio played the final 55 minutes of the game with 10 men after their French midfielder Ousmane Dabo was sent off.

Milan came from behind with goals from Marek Jankulovski, Gennaro Gattuso and Alberto Gilardino giving them victory in a game which included four red cards - three of them for Messina.

In less than a month Juve have allowed their lead to be slashed from 10 points to the current slim advantage giving Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti hope.

'The championship is still alive and we have three games to see if we can overtake Juventus,' said the Milan coach.

'We have to try and get three wins to finish well and to reach the maximum of our possibilities,' added Ancelotti whose side face Barcelona in the return leg of their Champions League semi-final in Spain on Wednesday, trailing 1-0.

Milan's preparations for the game at the Nou Camp suffered a blow though with three players picking up injuries in the first half at Messina.

Brazilian Kaka and Italy defender Alessandro Nesta were both substituted with injuries and then midfielder Massimo Ambrosini, who had replaced Kaka, also had to go off in the 28th minute.

Milan were already without striker Filippo Inzaghi who has been struggling to recover from a virus.

'We will see how they are on Sunday because at the moment we can't say anything,' said Ancelotti.

Juventus, who have not won since their elimination from the Champions League by Arsenal, continue to observe a ban on talking to the press imposed by the club's management.

At the foot of the table, Lecce became the second team to go down to Serie B after their 1-1 draw at home to already-relegated Treviso.

Fourth-placed Fiorentina took a step towards a return to the Champions League with their 2-1 win over Empoli allowing them to move three points ahead of fifth-placed AS Roma who were held to a goalless draw at home to Sampdoria.

Fiorentina have 68 points with Roma on 65.