Leaders Napoli collapse at Sassuolo to allow Milan rivals to close gap

Milan (AFP) – Napoli have the Milan giants breathing down their necks in the Serie A title race after throwing away a two-goal lead late at Sassuolo to draw 2-2 on Wednesday.


Luciano Spalletti's side looked set to maintain their three-point lead at the top of the league following second-half strikes from Dries Mertens and Fabian Ruiz.

But a superb finish from Gianluca Scamacca with 19 minutes remaining put the hosts back in the game and Gian Marco Ferrari snatched a draw in the final minute with a bullet header.

Sassuolo thought they had won it in a franctic finale in which Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti was sent off when Gregiore Defrel slotted home the third. But with the home players and fans celebrating wildly, the referee was called to check a Domenico Berardi foul on Amir Rrahmani and the goal was ruled out.

To make matters worse for Napoli, who host high-flying Atalanta on Saturday, they lost both scorers and defensive lynchpin Kalidou Koulibaly to injury.

AC Milan are now a point back in second after strolling to a 3-0 win at Genoa while Inter Milan are a further point behind in third following their 2-0 home victory over Spezia.

Junior Messias continued his incredible rise with a brilliantly taken brace either side of half-time at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris after Zlatan Ibrahimovic had curled in a perfect free-kick to give Milan a 10th minute lead.

Brazilian Messias, a 30-year-old former fridge deliveryman who is only in his second ever Serie A season, looped in a distance header in first half stoppage-time to double the away side's lead before rolling home a delicate finish in the 61st minute to seal the points.

His double comes after he struck the winning goal at Atletico Madrid which keeps alive Milan's hopes of making the Champions League last 16 ahead of the visit of Liverpool next week.

Inter's hot streak

Roberto Gagliardini and Lautaro Martinez struck in each half for Inter at a freezing San Siro as Simone Inzaghi's side extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 10 games.

The win was their fourth on the bounce with a much-changed line-up as Inzaghi shuffled his deck with a host of defensive injuries and a trip to Roma coming on Saturday.

Roberto Gagliardini's opening goal against Spezia was his first of the season
Roberto Gagliardini's opening goal against Spezia was his first of the season MIGUEL MEDINA AFP

Spezia have conceded a whopping 34 goals in 15 games and were brushed aside by an Inter side which was without several starters and in second gear for much of the night.

Gagliardini got them up and running nine minutes before half-time when he finished a delightful team move by meeting Martinez's delicate flick with a perfectly placed first-time finish.

Martinez and Hakan Calhanoglu were both stopped from doubling the hosts' lead by Ivan Provedel in the minutes after the restart while Correa crashed a shot off the bar, but it was not long before Inter had their second.

Kiwior was penalised for handball after Martinez's thumping shot struck his arm in the penalty area, and the Argentine made no mistake from the spot with just over half an hour remaining.

Bologna are eighth, level on 24 points with Juventus and Fiorentina after Mattias Svanberg fired them to a 1-0 win over Jose Mourinho's Roma.

Swede Svanberg, who was reportedly being watched at the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara by scouts from Manchester City, struck a beautiful winner from distance to move Sinisa Mihajlovic's side to within one point of fifth-placed Roma.

The result is also great news for Atalanta, who after their win over Venezia on Tuesday are six points away from their nearest challenger for fourth and the final Champions League spot.