Juventus hold out for tense draw at Napoli in Serie A clash; AC Milan held
Sami Khedira gave Juve a seventh-minute lead before Marek Hamsik finished off a flowing exchange of passes to score a superb equaliser on the hour and give Napoli a deserved pointfootball Updated: Apr 03, 2017 10:44 IST
Sami Khedira gave Juventus a seventh-minute lead before Marek Hamsik finished off a flowing exchange of passes to score a superb equaliser on the hour and give Napoli a deserved point.
Gonzalo Higuain was given a hot reception by Napoli fans on his return to the San Paolo stadium following his acrimonious move last July but made little impact on the game.
There was plenty of drama elsewhere, with AC Milan’s European hopes suffering a setback in a 1-1 draw at basement side Pescara after a rare mistake by 18-year-old keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Genoa fans turned their backs to the pitch in protest during a 5-0 home defeat by Atalanta and Diego Falcinelli injured himself celebrating after his late goal in a 2-1 triumph at Chievo gave Crotone their first-ever Serie A away win.
Juventus, who have 74 points from 30 games, remained 10 points clear of Napoli although their advantage over AS Roma is down to six after the second-placed side’s 2-0 home win over Empoli on Saturday.
Juve silenced the home fans when Khedira picked up a loose ball, played a one-two with Miralem Pjanic, and scored with a shot which went under the arms of Napoli keeper Rafael, who was standing in for the injured Pepe Reina.
After that, it was all Napoli as they penned Juve into their own half and managed 13 shots on goal to their opponents’ three.
Napoli were forced to play the ball around in midfield for long periods probing for openings but their patience was eventually rewarded.
After a long exchange of passes, the ball found Hamsik who played a quick one-two with Dries Mertens, got free of the defence and side-footed his shot wide of Gianluigi Buffon.
Napoli were nearly gifted a second goal when Mertens intercepted Kwadwo Asamoah’s backpass but could only shoot against the foot of the post from a narrow angle.
Milan gifted Pescara an early goal when Donnarumma missed the ball completely as he tried to control Gabriel Paletta’s back pass and it flew straight into the net for an own goal.
Mario Pasalic levelled before halftime but, despite dominating the second half, Milan failed to find a winner and were left seventh with 54 points.
They dropped four behind fifth-placed Atalanta, who were sent on their way when defender Andrea Conti met Leonardo Spinazzola’s cross with a superb overhead kick after 25 minutes.
Alejandro Gomez helped himself to a hat-trick, including a penalty, and Mattia Caldara also scored while Genoa had Mauricio Pinilla sent off just after the hour. Genoa’s hardcore Ultra fans turned their backs to the pitch after the third goal.
Crotone’s Falcinelli curled in an exquisite effort in the 82nd minute to give his side a famous win which put them five points behind 17th-placed Empoli and the safety zone.
Falcinelli was so excited that he tried to jump over an advertising hoarding to celebrate but slipped and had to be carried off on a stretcher, though he said later that he had merely suffered a cut to his knee.
Torino’s Andrea Belotti hit the post twice before finally scoring in the 83rd minute to secure a 2-2 draw at home to Udinese and take his season’s tally to 23 goals in the mid-table clash.
Palermo’s troubles continued as they lost 3-1 at home to Cagliari, putting them second-bottom and seven points adrift of the safety zone.
First Published: Apr 03, 2017 10:44 IST