Soccer-Pioli refuses to step down as Juventus increase Lazio misery

Dec 5 (Reuters) - Under-pressure Lazio coach Stefano Pioli said he will not 'desert the sinking ship' following his side's 2-0 home defeat to Juventus on Friday, but the decision may well be taken out of his hands with Marcello Lippi spotted at the Stadio Olimpico. Juve's victory, which came after an early own goal from Santiago Gentiletti and a stunning Paulo Dybala effort, extended their winning streak to five games. The reigning champions have surged back into title contention following a miserable start to the season in which they won only one of their opening six league fixtures. Their improving fortunes are a direct contrast to Lazio, who won six of their opening nine matches to go fourth but have not won since a 3-0 victory against Torino on Oct. 25. Defeat to Juventus was their fifth loss in their last six league matches and prompted captain Lucas Biglia to burst into tears at the final whistle. "I will not resign," Pioli assured the media. "I am primarily responsible for this, but I won't desert the sinking ship. "It's inevitable that we're losing confidence considering these results," he continued. "Just as victories fire you up, negative results bring you down. We can't do anything about this performance, but we can change our future." It remains to be seen whether Pioli will be given the opportunity to turn things around at the Stadio Olimpico. Italy's 2006 World Cup-winning coach Lippi was present in the stands on Friday evening, seated close to Lazio owner Claudio Lotito, prompting speculation that he is being lined up to replace Pioli. "I don't think it's right to comment (on the rumours)," he told reporters after the match, 'out of respect for my colleagues'." However, the 67-year-old admitted to RAI before Friday's fixture that he is keen on a return to management. "I now have that desire for football again, and if an opportunity arises, great," he said. "If not, then it's still fine." (Writing by Ed Dove; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)