Napoli missed the chance to leapfrog Juventus into the Champions League places after a 1-1 draw with Inter Milan, who inched closer to the Serie A title.
Samir Handanovic and Stefan de Vrij collided at the near post to divert a Lorenzo Insigne cross inside the near post to hand Napoli the lead, but Christian Eriksen thundered home a left-footed drive to equalise and extend Inter’s lead at the top of the table to nine points.
Both sides also rattled the woodwork. Romelu Lukaku hit both post and bar with efforts he did not know too much about, while Matteo Politano smashed against the visitors’ bar after some neat and jinking footwork.
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Kalidou Koulibaly and Lukaku renewed acquaintances as they tussled in the hosts’ defensive third, but the Senegalese came out on top as he marshalled the Belgian into silence, leaving the striker four goals shy of Cristiano Ronaldo in the top scorers’ charts.
The hosts were denied a penalty claim that was initially given after a challenge by De Vrij on Piotr Zielinski, but after a consultation with the VAR, the referee overturned the decision.
A point a piece seems a fair result which aids Inter’s title push, but hinders Napoli’s Champions League assault.
TALKING POINT – Napoli profligacy?
Sure, they may have looked dangerous at times going forward, but for a side chasing the Champions League places, they were surprisingly poor in front of goal. Victor Osimhen cut an isolated figure at times, often out-muscled and outnumbered by the three Inter centre-halves, and his replacement Dries Mertens could not offer any improvement.
They went ahead fortuitously – a calamitous error from Handanovic breaking the deadlock – but their hesitancy when faced with guilt-edged, golden opportunities could well have caused them to lose out on elite European football next term.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)
A wonderfully calm and composed display from the experienced central defender when faced with a striker of Lukaku’s quality. The Senegalese won the vast majority of his duels with the Belgian, steering him away from the penalty area, forcing him deeper and deeper and therefore nullifying his predatory threat.
He lost his man once, and nearly paid for it when the former Manchester United man hit the bar, but an assured performance from the centre-back, comfortable in possession and a solid defensive showing, ensured that Napoli avoided what would have been a perilous defeat in their quest for Europe.
Un duello tra Kalidou Koulibaly e Romelu Lukaku – Napoli-Inter Serie A 2020-21
Image credit: Getty Images
Napoli: Meret 6, di Lorenzo 6, Manolas 6, Koulibaly 8, Rui 7, Fabian 6, Demme 5, Zielinski 5, Politano 6, Osimhen 6, Insigne 6. Subs: Mertens 6, Elmas 5, Hysaj 6, Bakayoko 6.
Inter: Handanovic 5, Skriniar 5, de Vrij 5, Bastoni 6, Hakimi 6, Barella 6, Brozovic 5, Eriksen 6, Darmian 6, Lukaku 6, Martinez 5. Subs: Perisic 6, Sanchez 6, Gagliardini 6.
27′ A lovely break from Inter, carving their hosts apart after an initial ball from deep out wide right by Eriksen. Hakimi finds Lukaku who turns and runs into the space afforded to him, feeding Darmian, who tries to square instead of pulling the trigger himself.
36′ GOAL! Napoli 1-0 Inter. Napoli take the lead! Insigne bursts onto a ricochet towards the byline, and Handanovic and de Vrij make a real hash of the cross, and the ball spills inside the near post. An important goal for the Champions League chasers.
55′ GOAL! Napoli 1-1 Inter. Wait a second! It’s 1-1! Eriksen! Hakimi’s pace down the right plays a pivotal part, and his cross finds Darmian, whose pull back is crashed home inside the far post by the Dane. We’re level.
63′ Rui’s free kick… flicked on by di Lorenzo… Fabian at the back post?! No! It just evades him and goes behind. Inter survive.
80′ Politano! Off the bar! Wonderful footwork, deserved a goal. Oh so unlucky.
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