December 20, 2021 11:12:08 am
Napoli leapfrogged AC Milan into second place in Serie A after beating its title rival 1-0 in a mediocre match at San Siro on Sunday.
Eljif Elmas scored an early goal and Milan had an equalizer controversially disallowed right at the death. Franck Kessie’s goal was ruled out on video review as Olivier Giroud was in an offside position that was judged to be interfering with play, despite the Rossoneri forward being prone on the ground, underneath a Napoli defender.
“In the end they will say that they applied the rules in the right way … but I say: ‘How can a player who is on the ground interfere with the defense?” Milan coach Stefano Pioli said. “We’re disappointed, we’re disappointed to have lost this match. Now we’ll lick our wounds and then we’ll go again.”
Napoli moved above Milan on goal difference. Head-to-head is the first tiebreaker at the end of the season. The two teams are four points behind defending champion Inter Milan, which is winter champion with a match to spare.
The result will also serve as a confidence boost for Napoli, which had lost back-to-back league matches and had won just one of its last six games in the Italian league.
“We should be really proud of this win. We showed real personality and we made Milan really suffer, which is a big deal,” Napoli midfielder Piotr Zielinski said. “We’re up near the top fighting hard and we won’t give up. We’ll fight until the bitter end to win the title.”
Milan and Napoli had been joint leaders until recently, before a slew of injuries began to take their toll. Both sides were still depleted heading into the top-of-the-table clash.
But the visitors got off to the perfect start when Elmas headed in a corner at the near post after managing to get away from Milan midfielder Sandro Tonali.
Milan struggled to carve out opportunities but did go close to an equalizer in the 34th minute when Alessandro Florenzi’s shot from distance flew just wide of the right post.
The home side improved after the break and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s effort was fingertipped over the bar shortly after halftime.
Dusan Vlahovic scored again as Fiorentina fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at home to Sassuolo.
Gianluca Scamacca and Davide Frattesi scored within five minutes of each other to give Sassuolo a seemingly comfortable lead in the first half.
Sassuolo goalkeeper Andrea Consigli pulled off a number of great saves before Vlahovic got a goal back six minutes into the second half. It was an 11th goal in eight Serie A matches for Vlahovic, who is out of contract at the end of the season and in the hunt for a new club after deciding not to renew with Fiorentina.
Vlahovic was also involved in Fiorentina’s second goal, 10 minutes later, as his attempt was blocked but the ball came to Lucas Torreira to complete the comeback.
Fiorentina was dominating but its hopes of getting the winner were thwarted when defender Cristiano Biraghi was dismissed in the 68th following a second yellow card.
Fiorentina moved into sixth place, level with Roma and Juventus, six points behind Atalanta in fourth place and the final Champions League berth.
Both teams scored at the wrong end as relegation-threatened Spezia held Empoli to a 1-1 draw.
Empoli defender Riccardo Marchizza turned into his own net in the 50th minute and Spezia defender Dimitris Nikolaou did the same at the other end in the 71st.
Empoli was awarded a penalty late on but the referee changed his mind on video review.
Spezia moved three points above the relegation zone. It is four points behind 16th-place Venezia, which scored a late equalizer to draw 1-1 at fellow struggler Sampdoria. Torino won 1-0 at home to Hellas Verona, which played most of the match with 10 men after Giangiacomo Magnani was sent off in the 25th minute.
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