Inter signal scudetto aims as Napoli, Lazio stall
Inter Milan underlined their Serie A title credentials after stunning leaders Juventus 3-1 to halt the champions' impressive unbeaten streak before the magic 50 mark in Turin.
The Nerazzurri endured a sluggish start to the season but 36-year-old Inter coach Andrea Stramaccioni brought his side to the boil in timely fashion for Saturday's 'Derby d'Italia'.
In 10 previous games this season Juve had conceded only five goals.
But despite Chilean Arturo Vidal scoring in the first minute of a dominant first half the Turin giants were outplayed after the interval with Diego Milito grabbing a brace and Rodrigo Palacio scoring the third in the 89th minute.
Inter are now just one point behind Juventus, with Napoli -- unbeaten until two weeks ago when they visited Juventus Stadium -- now five points off the lead after being stunned by a late Torino equaliser in a 1-1 draw Sunday.
Juventus came out firing on all cylinders and should have had three quick goals but it was their first-minute opener that hit the net in controversial fashion.
Ghanaian midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah was offside when he latched on to a through ball on the left but when he lashed the ball across the area Vidal slotted home past Samir Handanovic.
Both teams had their chances in the first half but Inter moved up a gear in the second period as doubt began to creep in to Juve.
Milito beat Gianluigi Buffon from the penalty spot to level on the hour before making it two when he latched onto the rebound from a fierce drive by second half substitute Freddy Guarin.
Juve's chances of salvaging a draw were kept in check when Palacio finished off the good work of Yuto Nagatomo to handed Juve their first league defeat since a reverse against Parma in May 2011 and end their unbeaten run at 49 games.
Buffon says Juve made the crucial error of relying on their early lead.
"Inter played intelligently and showed a lot of hunger so they deserved it," Buffon told reporters after the game.
"I didn't like our attitude after we took a 1-0 lead. I don't understand why we sat waiting for them outside our own box, we were too carefree.
"We could have dealt with the game differently, but after 15 minutes we let them take the initiative."
Juventus were not alone in giving up ground to potential rivals as Napoli and Lazio fell to a draw and defeat respectively while Milan, Fiorentina and Catania earned significant wins.
Uruguayan international Edinson Cavani scored a sixth-minute opener for Napoli on his return having missed the shock 1-0 defeat in midweek to Atalanta.
However second half substitute Gianluca Sansone scored a late equaliser to put the brakes on the early season titles hopes of Walter Mazzarri's side.
"Congratulations to Torino, they made it hard for us," said Mazzarri, who lamented "several missed chances" earlier in the game.
The real goal action was going on elsewhere as Catania turned on the style to hammer Lazio 4-0 and Fiorentina secured a 4-1 win at home to Cagliari to move up to fourth.
Striker Alejandro Gomez grabbed a brace including a smashing eighth-minute drive, Francesco Lodi scored from the spot in the 25th minute and Gomez turned provider late on for a Pablo Barrientos tap-in.
Lazio's second straight defeat, following their midweek reverse at Fiorentina, means they drop to fifth and are now nine points shy of Juve.
Coach Vladimir Petkovic held his hands up: "The defeat is my responsibility. If we want to challenge at the top we can't afford performances like that."
At the Artemio Franchi stadium Fiorentina turned on the style to secure a 4-1 win over Cagliari, taking advantage of Lazio's reverse to move up to fourth place only seven points off the lead.
In Sunday's late match Roma made up for their midweek reverse to Parma by punishing Palermo 4-1 at the Olympic Stadium, where Mattia Destro was red-carded in the closing minutes
Francesco Totti opened the scoring on 11 minutes, Pablo Osvaldo doubled their lead on the half hour and Erik Lamela put the Giallorossi 3-0 up on 69 minutes. Destro was sent off for a second caution moments after his 79th minute goal, while Josip Ilicic scored a late consolation for the Sicilians.