Inter Milan maintained their one-point lead at the top of Serie A on Saturday with a 1-1 draw at title rivals Napoli which gives AC Milan the chance to take the summit.
Edin Dzeko’s powerful 47th-minute equaliser in a pulsating match was enough for Simone Inzaghi’s team to earn a point in Naples, after Lorenzo Insigne had overtaken Diego Maradona in Napoli’s all-time goal charts with an early penalty which took his club tally to 116, some way behind top scorer Dries Mertens.
Inter were good value for their point after initially being battered, but have left the door open for Milan, who are two points behind Inter in third and will go top with a win over Sampdoria in Sunday’s early match.
“We managed to extinguish their enthusiasm and in the end there’s a bit of regret because we had more than them left in the tank,” said Massimiliano Farris, who coached Inter with Inzaghi suspended and in the stands.
“The penalty could have sent the match their way, but after the break we showed what a good side we are.”
Inter have a game in hand on both their local rivals and Napoli but Saturday’s exciting match showed why Italy’s three-way title race could go down to the wire, with Luciano Spalletti’s side unlucky not to be further ahead before Dzeko struck.
“It was a very good performance, we had so many chances to get a second goal, but we didn’t take those opportunities and were unable to maintain our control,” said Spalletti.
Insigne sent the passionate crowd at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona wild when he slammed home him his seventh minute penalty, his sixth goal of the season and just reward for the asphyxiating early pressure Napoli put on Inter.
His spot-kick came amid chaos as Stefan de Vrij clashed with Victor Osimhen just before Giovanni Di Lorenzo flashed a powerful shot just wide of the upright.
Referee Daniele Doveri was then called by the VAR officials for an on-field review and gave Napoli the penalty which put them ahead.
Four minutes later Piotr Zielinski was the finest of margins from doubling the hosts’ lead, his effort crashing back out off the post as Napoli laid seige to the Inter goal, with Osimhen going close twice and Insigne hooking a presentable chance way over after great work from his Nigerian teammate.
Dzeko should have drawn Inter level nine minutes from half-time when he limply headed Ivan Perisic’s excellent cross straight at David Ospina, but seconds after the re-start the Bosnian did have his goal.
Don’t stop believing
Completely miscuing another decent headed opportunity, Dzeko was fortunate to see the ball ricochet straight back to him from Di Lorenzo and made no mistake with his right boot, arrowing in the equaliser in off the bar.
Inter dominated from that point, without creating many clearcut opportunities against Italy’s best defence, led by Kalidou Koulibaly who was back after winning the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal.
And goalkeeper Samir Handanovic made sure Napoli didn’t nick the win when he threw himself at Eljif Elmas’ feet to stop the Macedonian from netting from close range.
“We could have done more... but we shouldn’t be disheartened as a point against Inter is a good point,” said Koulibaly, who remained positive about Napoli’s title chances.
“We need to keep believing because we have done great work up to now . . . It’s down to us to make Napoli’s dreams come true.”
Mattia Zaccagni struck a second-half brace as Lazio strolled past Bologna 3-0 to close in on Serie A’s Champions League places.
After Ciro Immobile struck his 19th of the season from the penalty spot early on, Zaccagni doubled Lazio’s lead in the 53rd minute when he collected Luis Alberto’s through ball and slotted past Lukasz Skorupski.
He tapped home the third 10 minutes later from Manuel Lazzari’s low cross.
Maurizio Sarri’s side, in sixth, are three points behind Juventus, who hold the final Champions League spot and travel to fifth-placed Atalanta on Sunday night.