Dries Mertens ended his goal drought, but Napoli twice gave up the lead for a 2-2 draw as Torino practically crown Juventus champions.
The Partenopei’s Scudetto dreams had all but evaporated after a 3-0 defeat to Fiorentina, while last night Juventus beat Bologna 3-1, meaning the gap at the top is now six points. The mood in the Stadio San Paolo was one of protest, both at referees and President Aurelio De Laurentiis, whose comments in the media yesterday seemed to pin the blame on Coach Maurizio Sarri. There were several banners and chants in support of the tactician.
Vlad Chiriches stepped in for suspended Kalidou Koulibaly, with Marek Hamsik rested for Piotr Zielinski. Toro gave M’Baye Niang a rare start in place of Andrea Belotti, who was fatigued, with Emiliano Moretti banned.
Lorenzo Insigne flicked a Dries Mertens ball over the top into the arms of Salvatore Sirigu and Niang wasted a promising counter-attack.
It was Mertens’ 31st birthday and Nicolas Burdisso gifted him a goal with some shocking defending. His first touch was bad, the second worse and Mertens was able to pounce to tap in from eight yards. It ended the Belgian’s eight-round goal drought.
Toro almost gave away another with Daniele Baselli pressed by Allan, but Jose Callejon’s snapshot stung Sirigu’s gloves.
However, the Granata got a surprise equaliser on the counter with Adem Ljajic’s through ball allowing Baselli to spring the offside trap and his finish took a big deflection off Vlad Chiriches to wrong-foot Pepe Reina at the near post.
Niang nearly turned the game around completely, his pace causing real problems for the Napoli defence, but he only hit the side-netting.
Maurizio Sarri threw on Arkadiusz Milik for Mertens and the Pole saw his curler take a slight deflection to thump the near post.
Moments later, another substitute restored Napoli’s lead, as Marek Hamsik gathered from a Callejon counter-attack and hit a right-foot scorcher from the D, which bent around Sirigu to fly in at the near top corner.
Milik came very close to adding a third, but only turned a Callejon cross inches wide of the far post.
Yet Torino were allowed back in again for 2-2. Mario Rui didn’t realise Lorenzo De Silvestri had snuck round him for a free header on the Adem Ljajic floated assist, with Pepe Reina way off his line.
Napoli poured forward in the final minutes, but with very little effect.
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