Serie A: Napoli finally beaten as Inter relaunches title bid
And then there was none.
Serie A leaders Napoli have lost for the first time this season as Inter Milan reinvigorated their Italian title bid with a 3-2 victory on Sunday.
Defending champions Inter closed the gap on Napoli and AC Milan to four points after 13 rounds and ended Napoli’s status as the last unbeaten team in Europe’s five major leagues.
Dries Mertens, who had set up a thrilling final with his club-record 137th goal for Napoli, missed the opportunity to equalize in added time when he fought back.
“It was a very tactical game and we could have drawn it in the end,” Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti said on his first return to San Siro in Milan since being sacked by Inter after finishing fourth in 2019.
Spalletti’s players wore shirts paying tribute to the great footballer Diego Maradona, who died on November 25 last year.
Another Argentinian scored the winning goal. Lautaro Martinez scored Inter’s third on a 61st-minute counterattack set up by compatriot Joaquin Correa.
Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic kept the result with a superb save to ward off Mario Rui in added time, forcing the ball over the crossbar, before Mertens missed.
The visitors had struck first in the 17th when Piotr Zielinski won the ball over Nicolo Barella and rushed to score on a pass from Lorenzo Insigne.
Hakan Calhanoglu equalized with a penalty in the 25th, awarded after Kalidou Koulibaly was penalized by VAR for the ball from the hand, and Ivan Perisic led Inter’s second before the break.
There was a long delay at the start of the second half following a clash between Napoli’s Victor Osimhen and Inter’s Milan Skriniar. Osimhen couldn’t continue and left with what looked like a cheekbone injury.
Martinez scored but Mertens ensured a lively final when he pulled one out in the 78th with a brilliant shot under the crossbar.
There was another heist for another head-on clash, between Ospina and Inter striker Edin Dzeko. The two continued with their heads bandaged to see the late drama.
A TEEN SAVES ROMA
Roma coach Jose Mourinho faced the prospect of a third consecutive league game without a win until he put Felix Afena-Gyan against Genoa.
18-year-old Afena-Gyan scored twice in a 2-0 victory to lift Roma to fifth place and spoil Andriy Shevchenko’s debut as Genoa coach.
Embarrassed by injuries and coronavirus infections, the Roma failed to impress until Henrik Mkhitaryan put Afena-Gyan in place for the 82nd breakthrough. Afena-Gyan drilled a low shot inside the far post, then sealed the win with a brilliant curling shot in added time.
“I dedicate the goal (s) to everyone, to my family, to the fans, to my mother who brought me here,” said Afena-Gyan.
Earlier, a penalty from Brazilian striker Joao Pedro helped Cagliari off the bottom of the table with a 2-2 draw at Sassuolo.
Sampdoria’s 2-0 victory at Salernitana left the promoted down in place of Cagliari.
Moreover, Nigerian striker David Okereke’s goal in the second half was enough for Venezia to come away from Bologna with a surprise 1-0 victory.