AC Milan went top of Serie A for the first time this season after a late own-goal by Argentine forward German Denis gave them a 1-0 victory against 10-man Napoli at the San Siro on Sunday. Udinese are a point behind in second after fighting back for a 2-2 draw at home to Genoa while Inter Milan, who beat Reggina 3-2 on Saturday, are third with Napoli dropping to fourth. The defeat was harsh on visitors Napoli who had Cristian Maggio dismissed and deserved more for a performance full of heart and belief.
Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf said it was good to finally be back on top for the first time since May 2004, when Milan last won the scudetto. "It's been a bit too long since we were top, we've been under pressure for a long time but now we're top," he said. "Now let the good times roll. However I believe that Juve are coming back strongly and Inter are a class team. It's going to be a great title race right to the finish."
Napoli forward Ezequiel Lavezzi had the best chances in the first half but his fierce left-foot drive on 25 minutes was saved by Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati. Four minutes before the break, he again was denied by Abbiati before Daniele Bonera whipped the rebound off his toe before he could slot it home.
Napoli's hopes suffered a massive blow just before the break, though, when Maggio was sent off for a second booking. It meant the visitors had play the entire second period a man down. Coach Edy Reja sacrificed attacking Slovakia midfielder Marek Hamsik in favour of defender Salvatore Aronica.
As expected Milan dominated the play after the break and Marco Borriello twice came close in quick succession before FIFA World Player of the Year Kaka shuddered the post with a rasping shot on 72 minutes. Moments later substitute Pato missed a header from four yards after he was left unmarked on a free-kick. A deflected shot from Kaka also barely missed the far post.
Six minutes from time the referee made a shocking decision awarding a penalty to Milan for a handball against Michele Pazienza that was both outside the area and totally involuntary from a ball fired at him from close range. Justice was done as Gennaro Iezzo saved Kaka's penalty but only a minute later Denis flicked a Ronaldinho free-kick past Iezzo to break Neapolitan hearts.
In Udine, the hosts got off to a great start after just four minutes as Gaetano D'Agostino scored from the spot following a foul by Domencio Criscito on Antonio Floro Flores. Genoa were level on 64 minutes as Diego Milito scored from the spot after a soft penalty given against Aleksander Lukovic when he tangled with Anthony Vanden Borre. Three minutes later a classy finish by substitute Giuseppe Sculli put the visitors in front. But Italy striker Fabio Quagliarella restored parity by flicking home a cross from international team-mate Simone Pepe.
After the match, Udinese coach Pasquale Marino dismissed talk of the title. "I was enjoying myself whilst it was 1-0 but then once we were behind it's normal that things were more difficult for us," he said. "We're not thinking about being top because we know that it's impossible for us to win the championship."
In other games Fiorentina failed to move into the top three as they lost 1-0 at Siena. Siena's Liechtenstein forward Mario Frick had already hit the post with an open goal before Moroccan Houssine Kharja sealed the three points 14 minutes from time. Lazio are just two points off top in fourth now after they beat Catania 1-0 at home courtesy of a Pasquale Foggia strike five minutes from time.
Cagliari continued their resurgence as they came back from a goal down to beat Bologna, 5-1, at home. Marco Di Vaio opened the scoring for the visitors but two goals each from Robert Acquafresca and Brazilian Jeda as well as one from Daniele Conti gave the Sardinians their third win in four matches. Since losing their first five games of the season, Cagliari now have 10 points from their last five matches and no longer look like relegation certainties. The five goals were also as many as they had scored in their previous nine games.