SERIE A MATCH REPORT

Serie A Week 35 - content); ?>
Roma 1 - 0 Napoli
Nainggolan 89 (R)
Stadio Olimpico

Radja Nainggolan snatched a last-gasp victory over Napoli to put Roma within two points of second and mathematically make Juventus Champions of Italy.

This was a head-to-head for second place and automatic access to the Champions League group phase, but Juventus were also watching because anything other than a Napoli victory would mathematically crown them Scudetto winners for the fifth straight year.

Both sides had full squads to choose from, as Gonzalo Higuain returned from his three-match ban aiming to build on 30 goals in 31 games. Dries Mertens was given a rare start after his hat-trick against Bologna last week. The Partenopei hadn’t conquered the Stadio Olimpico in Serie A since a 2-0 result in February 2011, coming away with a 2-2 draw and three consecutive defeats.

Mohamed Salah volleyed just over the bar within the opening minute, while Mertens just failed to get on the end of a Jose Callejon ball over the top.

Kalidou Koulibaly made a decisive sliding intervention to stop Salah going clear on goal and Higuain accidentally struck Kostas Manolas in the eye with his hand. It left him struggling to see and a couple of minutes later the defender requested a substitution.

Mertens tested Wojciech Szczesny from distance with a snapshot, but there was controversy on 26 minutes. Callejon ran on to a Mertens cross-field ball and smashed his finish into the roof of the net from a tight angle, but the offside flag was up and replays suggest it was an inch or two at most.

Higuain’s divine first touch let him squirm between centre-backs, but Szczesny was very alert and made a crucial save from point-blank range.

Salah scuffed a shot from the edge of the box and Miralem Pjanic was booked for a tactical foul, meaning he’s suspended against Genoa. Faouzi Ghoulam and Koulibaly managed to both get booked for the same move, fouling Radja Nainggolan and Salah.

Roma lost Alessandro Florenzi to a muscular injury too during the half-time break. Szczesny smothered a Hamsik strike at the near post and Stephan El Shaarawy stumbled when running on to a smart Ervin Zukanovic through ball.

Douglas Maicon’s cross-shot flashed across the six-yard box with nobody ready to tap in, while Mertens curled wide.

El Shaarawy had a huge chance when controlling a through ball, but Raul Albiol sprinted back for a decisive block, his bravery seeing him clatter into Reina.

Szczesny was wide awake with a point-blank range parry on Higuain at the back post, then fingertipped Hamsik’s resulting corner over the bar.

Francesco Totti was thrown on, having scored three goals in his last two games – being on the pitch for a total of just 16 minutes – and the crowd went wild.

Hamsik thought he had scored on 83 minutes when Szczesny only parried from Higuain, but Rudiger’s sliding tackle got just a touch on the ball to turn it wide in front of an open goal from 10 yards.

Napoli pushed harder and Zukanovic dived in for a crucial block as David Lopez was ready to fire in from six yards.

Salah failed to make the most of an inspired Totti pass over the top, cut out by Albiol.

The deadlock was finally broken in the last minute when Totti’s ball was knocked back by Pjanic and then Salah to the edge of the box for Nainggolan to drill home from the edge of the box. It fizzed into the far bottom corner, where Pepe Reina could not reach.

See the latest Serie A predictions and betting tips with Eurotips.co.uk


Roma: Szczesny; Florenzi (Maicon 46), Manolas (Zukanovic 20), Rudiger, Digne; Pjanic, Nainggolan, Keita; Salah, Perotti, El Shaarawy (Totti 81)
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan (David Lopez 79), Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejon, Higuain, Mertens (Insigne 74)
Ref: Orsato