Napoli were gifted a 2-0 lead by defensive howlers, but Stephan El Shaarawy’s brace completed the comeback for a Milan draw at the San Paolo.
This should’ve been a Scudetto battle, but instead the Rossoneri were languishing in the lower end of the table. Injuries didn’t help their cause, as Ignazio Abate, Daniele Bonera, Luca Antonini, Sulley Muntari and Djamel Mesbah all missed the trip along with the suspended Massimo Ambrosini. Alexandre Pato and Giampaolo Pazzini were both dropped in favour of a new trident. Napoli were without Goran Pandev and the banned Valon Behrami, so Lorenzo Insigne got a rare start alongside goal-machine Edinson Cavani.
Milan’s record at the San Paolo was not encouraging either, as they had won here only once since Napoli’s return to the top flight in 2007. Juve’s draw with Lazio earlier this evening gave Walter Mazzarri’s men the chance to close on the leaders.
Gokhan Inler broke the deadlock with the first real attempt and Christian Abbiati made an absolute hash of it. The goalkeeper, wearing the captain’s armband, was caught wrong-footed by a hopeful long-range strike from the Swiss international that swerved a little in the air.
Milan went close when Riccardo Montolivo prodded inches wide while falling to get on the end of a Kevin-Prince Boateng assist. Cavani was incorrectly flagged offside when one-on-one against Kevin Constant, while Antonio Nocerino blasted over the bar.
Juan Camilo Zuniga returned from injury and his effort was deflected wide, but Abbiati was made to look foolish again for Napoli’s second goal. Insigne spun round and his shot took a deflection off Francesco Acerbi, sending the ball squirming through Abbiati’s legs.
It should’ve been 3-0 moments later when Insigne pounced on a terrible Constant back-pass, but the youngster tried to set up Cavani instead of going for goal and it was intercepted by Philippe Mexes.
Milan finally threatened on 38 minutes, as Stephan El Shaarawy failed to get the final touch to an angled Boateng ball across the face of goal.
The Rossoneri pulled one back on the stroke of half-time when Mattia De Sciglio rolled back to the edge of the box where El Shaarawy curled a first-time scorcher under the bar.
After the restart Nocerino fired over from distance and Mexes turned wide from a corner. Cavani was booked for a mistimed tackle on Bojan Krkic, meaning he’ll be suspended next week against Cagliari.
Bojan toe-poked off target to ruin a promising counter-attack and Boateng turned a couple of good chances over. However, Napoli went so close on the hour mark when Hamsik rolled across for Christian Maggio to come sliding in just a second too late to get the decisive touch at the back post.
Milan almost gifted Cavani a goal with a terrible pass, but this time Abbiati parried with his feet. Cavani then anticipated Mexes with a high foot to send Hamsik through, but the Slovak drilled wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.
The Rossoneri were pouring forward and Hugo Campagnaro was decisive to take the ball off Bojan’s foot as Morgan De Sanctis had come rushing off his line. Boateng attempted an overhead kick from the corner, but it was wild and high.
Pazzini was thrown on for Montolivo and Robinho made his appearance, but Bojan was curiously booked for simulation after he was shoved by Cavani.
Napoli had three shots charged down during the same move, as Abbiati eventually stuck out a foot to deny Cavani.
However, Milan completed their comeback from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at the San Paolo. Substitute Robinho threaded through for El Shaarawy, who kept his cool to side-foot it past De Sanctis into the far bottom corner for his 10th Serie A goal of the season.
Maggio blasted over from a promising position and Mbaye Niang tested De Sanctis from distance, then El Shaarawy had his toe-poke smothered on the counter.