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Milan lose ground in title race after Juve stalemate

Milan now trail the champions by four and have dropped down to third after Napoli drew level with them on 49 points.

Image: Alessio Tarpini

Updated Jan 23rd 2022, 10:18 PM

AC MILAN WERE held to a goalless draw by Juventus on Sunday, losing ground in the Serie A title race and allowing Napoli to move second following their 4-1 thumping of Salernitana.

Two points behind local rivals Inter Milan before this weekend, Milan now trail the champions by four and have dropped down to third after Napoli drew level with them on 49 points.

With the Milan derby straight after the international break which starts on Monday, an already crucial match will take on extra significance when Serie A returns next month, with Napoli at relegation-threatened Venezia.

Juve had the chance to move into the Champions League places with a win following fourth-placed Atalanta’s draw at Lazio on Saturday, but they didn’t managed a single shot on target in a bafflingly uninspired display and stay one point from the top four.

A match of few chances was played on a San Siro pitch which had been played on by Inter the previous day and had been heavily criticised by the champions’ coach Simone Inzaghi.

Juventus were content to keep it tight but created very little on the break while Milan continuously ran into a well-drilled defence led by Giorgio Chiellini.

Rafael Leao forced a good early save from Wojciech Szczesny with a low drive, while Davide Calabria flashed two well-hit shots just past the upright from long range.

The hosts’ best and last proper chance came midway through the second half when Olivier Giroud, who replaced the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic, met a cross with a powerful header which was straight at Szczesny.

EARLIER TODAY, LORENZO INSIGNE JOINED Diego Maradona on 115 Napoli goals with the fourth in a 4-1 thumping of rock-bottom Salernitana which kept his team on Inter Milan’s coattails.

Insigne, who has played his entire senior career with his local team, smashed home from the penalty spot in the 53rd minute to move level with legend Maradona in the club’s scoring charts.

His strike made sure of a win over regional rivals Salernitana which moves Napoli second and keeps them four points behind league leaders Inter.

AC Milan can retake second place with a win over Juventus at the San Siro in the weekend’s big match, later this evening.

Insigne will move to Toronto FC in July after signing a lucrative four-year deal with the Major League Soccer side earlier this month, giving him one last season to emulate Maradona and win a league title with Napoli.

The 30-year-old’s penalty was his fifth goal of the Serie A campaign and the second spot-kick of the game after adopted Neapolitan Dries Mertens had put Napoli ahead for the second time in the match on the stroke of half-time with his club record-extending 144th goal.

Everything had looked to be going Napoli’s way when Juan Jesus’ 17th-minute opener was awarded after a long VAR check, but Federico Bonazzoli’s first-time finish for the away side in the 33rd minute had made the crowd jittery.

italy-soccer-serie-a Juan Jesus' goal put Napoli ahead. Source: Alessandro Garofalo/LaPresse

Amir Rrahmani scored Napoli’s third when he kneed home Mertens’ drilled low cross. Then Frederic Veseli was harshly judged to have handled, allowing substitute Insigne to match the scoring tally of Naples icon Maradona.

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During his tumultuous time at Napoli, Maradona led the southern club to their only two league titles and the 1989 UEFA Cup.

In another local derby, Daniele Verde earned Spezia a huge three points with the only goal in his team’s win over fellow relegation strugglers Sampdoria.

Verde volleyed home Kevin Agudelo’s cross in the 69th minute on the Italian riviera to give Spezia their third win in row and move them up to 14th, eight points from 18th-placed Cagliari who missed the chance to climb out of the drop zone after drawing 1-1 with 10-man Fiorentina.

Walter Mazzarri’s side would have moved above Venezia, who sit 17th and suffered a last-gasp defeat at Inter on Saturday, had they held on after Joao Pedro put them ahead just after half-time with his 10th league goal of the season.

However Cagliari old boy Riccardo Sottil’s leveller with 15 minutes left. That means Cagliari stay in the bottom three, a point from safety, while Fiorentina go sixth and seven points from the Champions League places.

The draw will frustrate Cagliari as Pedro missed a penalty seven minutes before Sottil’s well-taken equaliser for Fiorentina, who played the last 25 minutes a man down after Alvaro Odriozola was sent off following his protests at the awarding of Cagliari’s spot-kick.

In the afternoon’s other match, Giacomo Raspadori snatched a 1-1 draw for Sassuolo at Torino with an 88th-minute leveller with his team’s first shot on target.

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