NAPOLI CLOS­ING IN ON ROMA

Sarri’s men in sight of sec­ond place af­ter Calle­jon win­ner at In­ter

New Straits Times - - Sport -

MI­LAN

AFIRST-HALF win­ner from Jose Calle­jon handed Napoli the points from a 1-0 win at In­ter Mi­lan on Sun­day that closed the gap on Roma in sec­ond to a point.

Mau­r­izio Sarri’s men trav­elled to the San Siro buoyed by Roma’s ear­lier 3-1 derby de­feat to Lazio that left the cap­i­tal con­tenders nine points adrift of lead­ers Ju­ven­tus.

By the end of a San Siro siz­zler that saw Ste­fano Pi­oli’s out­played hosts stage a brief, sec­ond-half come­back, Calle­jon’s 43rd minute opener proved the dif­fer­ence to a win that put Napoli in firm con­tention for the sec­ond au­to­matic Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fy­ing place.

Roma re­main sec­ond at nine points be­hind Ju­ven­tus with four games to play but Lu­ciano Spal­letti’s men are now just one point ahead of Napoli, who re­main seven points ahead of Lazio, in fourth.

Yet coach Mau­r­izio Sarri said his side’s fate lies with their op­po­nents, telling Pre­mium Sport: “I’ve never made pre­dic­tions and I’m not about to start now.

“The sit­u­a­tion is de­ter­mined by our ri­vals, who, if they all win, will give us no chance of fight­ing our way back.”

In­ter’s fourth de­feat in a six­match win­less run, mean­while, left the Ner­az­zurri in sev­enth, but now three points be­hind city ri­vals AC Mi­lan and eight be­hind fifth-placed Ata­lanta.

But Pi­oli hasn’t given up hope of a Europa League place, hop­ing they can fin­ish sixth to claim the Ital­ian Cup win­ner’s al­lo­ca­tion that, in all like­li­hood, will be va­cated by fi­nal­ists Ju­ven­tus and Lazio.

“At the mo­ment, the re­sults are neg­a­tive but we can still fin­ish sixth in the table. That’s our ob­jec­tive,” said Pi­oli.

“It wasn’t all neg­a­tive tonight. I think we played well given the cal­i­bre of the side we played. They con­trolled the ball bet­ter than us, and our pass­ing was off at times.”

Ear­lier, Mi­lan spurned the chance to steal a march, suf­fer­ing a sec­ond league set­back since their takeover by a Chi­nese con­sor­tium.

Mi­lan trav­elled to rel­e­ga­tion­haunted Cro­tone look­ing to make up for a shock 2-1 San Siro de­feat to strug­gling Em­poli last week.

But for the sec­ond game in suc­ces­sion since the Ros­soneri Sport In­vest­ment Lux bought the seven-time Euro­pean cham­pi­ons from long-time owner Sil­vio Ber­lus­coni, Vin­cenzo Mon­tella’s side dis­ap­pointed in a 1-1 draw.

In the June 2 Cup fi­nal, Ju­ven­tus, set for a Cham­pi­ons League spot, face Lazio — who look set to fin­ish fourth and book a spot in Europe’s sec­ond tier club com­pe­ti­tion.

“We still be­lieve we can reach the Europa League,” added Mon­tella.

“We’ve still to face Ata­lanta and sixth place still of­fers a way in.”

In the fight to se­cure the sec­ond au­to­matic Cham­pi­ons League spot, Roma blun­dered.

Keita Balde struck twice, ei­ther side of a Du­san Basta strike and Daniele De Rossi’s goal for Roma, as a dom­i­nant Lazio ru­ined Francesco Totti’s ‘fi­nal’ derby to give Napoli a pre-game boost.

Else­where, for­mer Roma striker Mat­tia De­stro struck in ei­ther half to com­plete a brace as Bologna se­cured their top flight sur­vival with a com­pre­hen­sive 40 win over Udi­nese.

It gave Roberto Don­adoni’s men a 13-point lead over third-from-bot­tom Cro­tone and Bologna for­ward Si­mone Verdi said: “We’ve de­served to stay up this sea­son, so it’s only right we cel­e­brate.”

Genoa and Em­poli, how­ever, face a ner­vous end to the sea­son af­ter de­feats to Chievo and Sas­suolo re­spec­tively left them just above the drop zone.

While rock-bot­tom Pescara’s rel­e­ga­tion last week was ham­mered home on Sun­day by a 1-0 de­feat away to Cagliari, fel­low strug­glers Cro­tone and Palermo can dream of top-flight sur­vival for another week.

A point from their draw with Mi­lan left Cro­tone third from bot­tom but now just four points be­hind Em­poli.

Palermo saw goals from Alessan­dro Dia­manti and Haitam Aleesami, at the death, se­cure a 2-0 home win over 10-man Fiorentina — only their fourth of the sea­son. It left the Si­cil­ians sec­ond from bot­tom and 10 points be­hind Em­poli.

EPA PIC

Napoli’s Jose Calle­jon (right) scores dur­ing their Serie A match against In­ter Mi­lan on Sun­day. Napoli won 1-0.

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