ROME: Giovanni Simeone ensured Napoli continued their march towards ending a 33-year wait to win the Serie A title with the decisive goal in a 2-1 win over AS Roma which pushed his team 13 points clear of the chasing pack.
Substitute Simeone rifled home a wonderful finish at the end of a long passing move with four minutes remaining at the bouncing Stadio Maradona to see off a spirited Roma team who thought they had escaped with a point when Stephan El Shaarawy levelled in the 75th minute.
Luciano Spalletti’s side are alone at the top of the league with 53 points from 20 games, 13 points clear of Inter Milan, the closest challengers after champions AC Milan were humbled 5-2 by Sassuolo to leave their title defence in tatters.
“I tried to give everything I had. I did the best thing possible today which was get the winner. I am so happy,” said Simeone, who scored his fifth goal after coming off the bench this season.
Roma can consider themselves unfortunate to leave Naples with nothing after impressing despite the backroom drama involving want-away star Nicolo Zaniolo poisoning their pre-match preparation.
Jose Mourinho’s team sit sixth, a point behind the Champions League positions and Milan who have been dumped down to fifth following their humiliating defeat and Lazio’s 1-1 draw with Fiorentina.
“There are some matches where you lose but come away feeling better about the team. That’s my feeling today,” said Mourinho to DAZN. “Sometimes football is unfair. Sometimes the team who deserves more loses.”
Victor Osimhen was Napoli’s other scorer, almost bringing the house down in the 17th minute when he brilliantly chested down Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s cross, took another touch with his thigh before lashing in without the ball touching the floor.
His 14th league strike of the campaign was one of the goals of the season and a blistering opener to an enthralling encounter which ended with Napoli taking yet another step towards glory.
Milan suffered a fourth defeat in five matches to pile pressure on manager Stefano Pioli with a shocking defensive display condemning them to another heavy loss after also being hammered by Lazio and Inter Milan in the last 10 days.
Tempers flared throughout the match as frustrations grew, with 11 yellow cards shown, seven to Milan players and four to the visitors.
“I feel disappointment, but we don’t get far with disappointment,” Pioli told Sky Sport Italia. “Recent performances show we are struggling, this must push me to understand what situations need to be improved and dealt with differently.”
Sassuolo’s first goal came against the run of play after 19 minutes when Domenico Berardi sent a cross into the box and an unmarked Gregoire Defrel tapped in.
Davide Frattesi doubled the lead two minutes later when he hammered a low shot into the net.
Olivier Giroud pulled one back for Milan in the 24th minute, heading Davide Calabria’s cross into the top corner, but Berardi quickly restored Sassuolo’s two-goal lead.
Milan’s woes continued in the second half when Armand Lauriente converted a penalty two minutes after the interval, and Matheus Henrique added the fifth 11 minutes from time.
Divock Origi grabbed Milan’s second goal with a well-placed strike from the edge of the box in the 81st minute.
Sassuolo are 16th but Sunday’s shock win took them eight points ahead of Verona who sit just inside the relegation zone.
Lazio missed the chance to move up to second place but went third with 38 points after their draw with Fiorentina at home.
Nicolo Casale scored for the hosts after eight minutes, while Nicolas Gonzalez equalised four minutes after the break with a well-placed shot from outside the box.
Elsewhere, Juventus suffered another blow in their bid for Champions League qualification as they slumped to a 2-0 home defeat by Monza.
Juventus are languishing 13th in the standings with 23 points, two places behind Monza.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side have not been able to recover momentum after being docked 15 points this month following an investigation into the club’s transfer dealings. They are 15 points behind AC Milan in the last Champions League qualification spot.
“Every game is decisive, we need to get out of this vortex as quickly as possible. We have one point from three rounds and that should not happen. We were unbeaten at home until now. Monza are a good side, but we cannot concede those two goals so softly,” Allegri told DAZN.
Gianluca Caprari thought he had given Monza the lead after 10 minutes, but he was ruled offside by VAR when he got the pass inside the box The visitors did score after 18 minutes when Jose Machin sent a well-timed through ball to Patrick Ciurria, who shot high into the net.
Dany Mota doubled Monza’s lead six minutes before halftime when he got the ball inside the box, rounded Juve keeper Wojciech Szczesny and put the ball into the empty net.
Juve dominated the second half but were repeatedly denied by Monza keeper Michele Di Gregorio who made a particularly fine save from Manuel Locatelli’s shot.
Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2023
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