AC Milan kept hold of their three-point lead at the top of Serie A on Saturday with a 1-0 win at Cagliari, while Inter Milan fell further behind their local rivals after being held 1-1 by Fiorentina.
Ismael Bennacer struck the only goal in the 59th minute of a hard-fought match in Sardinia to keep Napoli at arm’s length after they briefly drew level on points thanks to Victor Osimhen’s double in a 2-1 win over Udinese.
A third win on the bounce for Stefano Pioli’s side stretched their unbeaten league run to eight games and increased hopes of a first Scudetto since 2011, but it was a match marred by racist abuse directed at Mike Maignan and Fikayo Tomori from a section of home fans at the final whistle which sparked a on-pitch shoving match.
“Maignan said to me ‘It’s not possible that we’re hearing these sorts of insults’,” Pioli told DAZN.
“It’s the first time that he’s reacted and that means something bad happened that shouldn’t have happened. Tomori said the same thing.”
It was beautiful goal which won the game, Algeria international Bennacer meeting Olivier Giroud’s inviting lay-off with a sumptuous first-time finish from the edge of the box with his left foot.
However Milan would have had a less stressful final few minutes had Davide Calabria not ended a blistering counter-attack with a tame finish straight at Alessio Cragno when one-on-one only a few yards out.
Leonardo Pavoletti thumped the crossbar with a powerful header as the match crept into stoppage time, but Milan just about held on for the win.
Inter’s troubles continue
With eight games to go Milan also have the gap between them and Inter at six points as Simone Inzaghi’s side continue their struggles.
The champions looked set for a grandstand finish at the San Siro after Denzel Dumfries headed them level in the 55th minute, but the game ended in an unhelpful stalemate.
Simone Inzaghi’s side sit third – albeit with a game in hand – after having won just one of their last seven league matches and what was a four-point lead at the start of 2022 has slowly slipped through their fingers.
“I would be more worried if the team wasn’t creating chances... in the second half we created a lot of opportunities,” said Inzaghi.
“We might not have got the results but the team have been creating.”
They face Juventus next weekend in the ‘Derby of Italy’ and have their old rivals, who host bottom team Salernitana on Sunday, four points behind them in fourth and breathing down their neck after a 15-match unbeaten run in the league.
Fiorentina, who silenced the home fans when Lucas Torreira smashed home the opener four minutes after half-time, are eighth and a point away from the European places.
Loanee Torreira carried on playing despite losing a tooth after being hit in the face, staying on the field with a cotton swab in his mouth and then posting a image on Twitter of himself with a gap in his teeth.
Osimhen saves Napoli
They were saved by VAR 10 minutes after Dumfries’ leveller, when referee Daniele Chiffi overruled his own decision to give Inter a penalty for a foul by Lorenzo Venuti on Lautaro Martinez after an on-field review.
Osimhen was the hero of the hour for Napoli with both goals in a 2-1 win over Udinese, his brace keeping Luciano Spalletti’s side right in the hunt.
Nigeria forward Osimhen’s strikes in the 52nd and 63rd minutes ensured that Napoli squeezed past Udinese at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona after Gerard Deulofeu gave the away side a shock lead midway through the first half.
Napoli are chasing a first Serie A title since the days when Maradona inspired them to their only Italian league crowns in 1987 and 1990, and Osimhen is confident they can emulate the great Argentine who died in 2020.
“We keep believing, we have eight games to go, we want to continue the momentum to win every game, and at the end we’ll see. I still believe in the Scudetto,” he told DAZN.