Napoli squeeze past Milan to reignite title push


Napoli got their title challenge back on track on Sunday with a dramatic 1-0 win at rivals AC Milan which moved them up to second in Serie A but was decided by the controversial ruling out of a late equaliser.

Eljif Elmas headed home the decisive goal from Piotr Zielinski’s fifth-minute corner at a freezing San Siro to end a mini-crisis for Luciano Spalletti’s injury-ravaged side and put them four points behind champions Inter Milan, who are now guaranteed to be top at Christmas with one midweek round of fixtures left before the winter break.Former league leaders Napoli largely looked assured despite missing a host of starters including star striker Victor Osimhen, defensive lynchpin Kalidou Koulibaly, and Italy forward Lorenzo Insigne and are back on track after two home defeats at the hands of Atalanta and Empoli.

“We had the game in hand pretty well for most of the match, apart from a few moments when Milan’s physical play didn’t allow us to settle,” said Spalletti to DAZN.

However, Milan thought they had snatched a point in the final minute after a wave of late pressure when Franck Kessie lashed home from close range, only for the strike to be disallowed for offside following a pitchside video check by referee Davide Massa.

Olivier Giroud challenged for the ball with Juan Jesus before the pair fell in a heap, and Giroud was then ruled to have been in an active offside position, underneath Jesus, as the Napoli defender attempted to clear while on his back.

The decision to rule out Kessie’s strike sparked fury from Milan fans in the stands, whose teams were also missing a number of first-team players, among them starting centre-back Simon Kjaer who is out for the season.

“I know that they’ll s ay that they correctly followed the rules, but how can a player who’s on the floor, who does nothing to intervene make any difference to the defender?” Milan coach Stefano Pioli asked DAZN’s pundits.

“Juan Jesus is not blocked by Giroud. What else can I say? It’s a shame because the team didn’t deserve to lose this match.”Pioli’s side have been bumped down to third following that controversial ending but are level on 39 points with Napoli as four teams battle for the ‘Scudetto’ with Atalanta lurking a further two points back in fourth.

Dusan Vlahovic was again on target for Fiorentina in Sunday’s early match but could not help the Viola put pressure on Serie A’s Champions League positions. Serbia forward Vlahovic struck his league-leading 16th goal of the season in the 51st minute in Florence to pull a goal back after his team trailed by two at half-time.

Lucas Torreira levelled just after the hour mark but Vincenzo Italiano’s side then lost Cristiano Biraghi to a second yellow card in the 68th minute and could not complete a comeback which would have put them within three points of the top four.—Agencies

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