Napoli thrash Ranieri's Roma as Milan outfits falter
ROME - Napoli punished a poor Roma side as both Milan rivals faltered, consolidating their grip on second place and all but guaranteeing themselves a spot in next year’s Champions League.
Napoli had only won one of their previous three matches coming into the game at the Stadio Olimpico, but were quick to shake off any cobwebs as in-form Akradiusz Milik slotted a wonderful volley past Robin Olsen in the Roma net less than two minutes in.
Milik received a ball over the top from Verdi, taking it down sublimely with his left heel before smashing home into the top corner from six yards out.
Roma were level just before the break as Diego Perotti coolly dispatched a penalty past Napoli’s Alex Meret.
Napoli felt aggrieved at what was a soft penalty decision but were quick to move past the decision and stamp their authority back on the game as the team’s came out for the second half.
Dries Mertens restored the away side’s lead four minutes after the interval as he was left unmarked on the back post to tap in from a yard out after Olsen badly fumbled a weak Roma cross.
Napoli then doubled their advantage just five minutes later, Simone Verdi finishing off a devastating counter attack that saw Napoli turn defence into attack in just four passes.
Stephen Nzonzi did hit the bar soon after for a goal that would have likely helped turn the momentum of the game, but Roma were finished off by a goal by substitute Amin Younes nine minutes from time after the home side were unable to clear their lines.
Roma have now lost three of their last four games, slipping to seventh in the league in the process and have a mountain to climb if they are to salvage anything from this season.
Both AC Milan and Inter missed an opportunity to extend the gap between them and the team’s hot on their tails for the final two Champions League spots as both fell to 1-0 defeats.
Milan lost away at Sampdoria after a howler from their young goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma one minute in proved decisive.
Donnarumma would have been expected to clear a regulation back pass with ease as Milan looked to dominate early possession, but inexplicably passed the ball straight into Sampdoria forward Grégoire Defrel who couldn’t believe his luck as he bagged his eighth league goal of the campaign.
While Milan pushed hard for an equaliser, Sampdoria were worthy winners and could have climbed to within two points of Roma in the league after four wins from their last five.
Inter, meanwhile, lost at home to a resurgent Lazio side who moved up to fifth in the Serie A thanks to Sergej Milinković-Savić’s twelfth minute back post header.
Inter dominated the game but squandered some golden chances to get something from it as Lucio Spalletti’s men continued their inconsistent form.
Mauro Icardi remained absent from the Inter squad despite returning to training, and fans may well hope to see the goal machine return as Inter look to bag a spot in Europe’s top competition for next season.
League leaders Juventus took another important step to wrapping up an eighth successive scudetto as they narrowly won at struggling Empoli.
The home side looked as though they were on course for a famous point as they look to move out of the relegation zone, but Juventus proved too much as teenager Moise Kean, fresh from scoring his first international goals, came off the bench to slot home what was a decisive goal with 18 minutes left to play.
Kean could have bagged a second soon after, but his effort was well saved. Juventus fans however must be very encouraged with what they see as the 19-year-old moves from strength to strength and has not scored 4 goals in his last 6 appearances.
Atalanta moved up to sixth in the league, and crucially into the final Europe League qualification spot, as they came from behind to see off a spirited Parma display. A brace from Duván Zapata and a goal for Mario Pašalić proved enough for the side from Bergamo to wipe out Gervinho’s opener.
Fiorentina and Torino, meanwhile, both missed an opportunity to close the gap to the European promotion spots as they played out a 1-1 draw, the fourteenth time Fiorentina have shared the spoils in a Serie A match this season.
Elsewhere, Bologna continued their phenomenal run of form as they won 2-1 against Sassuolo, scoring the decisive goal with seconds left on the clock to make it three wins from three and move out of the relegation zone.
Udinese too moved further clear of the relegation zone as they beat Genoa 2-0, while Chievo’s hopes of avoiding relegation seem all but over as they fell to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Cagliari.