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Inter’s Title Charge Hits Breaks With Napoli Draw

Napoli were missing Victor Osimhen after the Nigeria forward picked up a hamstring problem in training and put up a brave fight after being dumped out of Europe by Barcelona on Tuesday.


Inter Milan’s French forward #09 Marcus Thuram fights for the ball with Napoli’s Kosovo defender #13 Amir Rrahmani (L) during the Serie A football match between Inter Milan and Napoli at San Siro stadium in Milan, on March 17, 2024. (Photo by Isabella BONOTTO / AFP)

 

Inter Milan’s march towards a 20th league title was slowed down on Sunday by reigning champions Napoli who escaped the San Siro with a creditable 1-1 draw.

Juan Jesus nodded home Napoli’s leveller with nine minutes remaining after fighting back from Matteo Darmian’s opener shortly before half-time.

Leaders Inter still need 14 more points from their remaining nine fixtures to claim a 20th league title after their huge advantage on AC Milan was cut to 14 points with their local rivals winning 3-1 at Verona.

It was another disappointing result for Simone Inzaghi’s Inter following a painful exit from the Champions League at the hands of Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, as their 10-match domestic winning streak came to an end.

It was a symbolic fixture for Inter as they are outperforming Napoli’s incredible charge to their historic third league crown last season.

Even after Sunday’s draw, Inter have more points, have scored more goals and have a significantly better goal difference than Napoli did at the same stage last season.

However, their dream of securing the title with a record-equalling five matches to spare by beating Milan in next month’s derby is now less realistic than before kick-off.

Napoli were missing Victor Osimhen after the Nigeria forward picked up a hamstring problem in training and put up a brave fight after being dumped out of Europe by Barcelona on Tuesday.

However, assuming Italy get five Champions League spots next season, Napoli are still six points from a place in Europe’s top club competition as Roma, in fifth, beat Sassuolo 1-0 thanks to a goal from Lorenzo Pellegrini.

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Milan on a roll

Goals shortly before and after half-time by Theo Hernandez and Christian Pulisic put Milan two ahead at Verona before Samuel Chukwueze volleyed the away side out of sight with 11 minutes remaining.

Sunday’s win moved Milan three points ahead of third-placed Juve, who were held to a goalless draw by Genoa, in the race for Champions League football.

Stefano Pioli’s side might be miles behind Inter but they are all-but guaranteed a spot in next season’s Champions League as they sit 11 points above Roma.

“We played very well as a team and we created a huge amount. It was a really positive performance,” said Pioli to DAZN after his team’s fifth straight win in all competitions.

Verona put on a good show and Tijjani Noslin’s unstoppable strike in the 64th minute gave the hosts hope they could pull off another good result after winning their previous two matches.

Instead, Verona stay two points above the relegation zone with a potentially huge clash at fellow strugglers Cagliari coming up after the international break.

Serie A confirmed to AFP that Fiorentina’s fixture at Atalanta had been postponed “to a later date” due to general manager Giuseppe “Joe” Barone’s being taken ill with what which Italian media reported as a heart attack.

The Gazzetta Dello Sport reported that Barone was whisked to Milan’s San Raffaele Hospital from the hotel where Fiorentina stayed pre-match.

Barone, who was born in Sicily in 1966 but moved to New York City when he was a child, is a long-time colleague of Fiorentina president Rocco Commisso.

Fiorentina are eighth in Serie A, four points behind Atalanta who sit in sixth and the division’s Europa Conference League spot.

AFP