New Straits Times
Inter take lead as Napoli are held in Serie A
MILAN: Nicolo Barella sealed a 2-1 win over Verona to send Inter Milan top of Serie A on Saturday as Napoli were jeered by their fans after being held to a goalless draw at home by Genoa.
Former Cagliari midfielder Barella scored his first goal for Inter with a stunning curling strike seven minutes from time, allowing Inter to overtake defending champions Juventus.
Inter sit two points ahead of Juve, who host 13th-placed AC Milan in Turin in a late match yesterday.
But Serie A runners-up Napoli saw their winless league run extended to four games, and are stuck in seventh position, 12 points behind Inter.
Napoli fans were furious with the point against their northern rivals who are 17th in the league, days after the team’s Champions League last 16 progress was stalled with a 1-1 draw against Salzburg.
Inter coach Antonio Conte had also been furious after his side threw away a two-goal lead to fall to a 3-2 Champions League defeat at Borussia Dortmund in midweek.
But the former Juventus and Chelsea boss was happy with the way his team hit back.
“I saw an important response after Dortmund,” said Conte. “The lads are doing something important — 31 points in 12 games is a nice haul.
“Now there is a (international) break and we’re going to rest after a victory that gives us enthusiasm and the knowledge that we’re on the right path.”
“We wanted to win at all costs, despite the fatigue from the recent matches,” said Barella.
“Now it’s time for the national team and I’m already focused on that,” he added of Italy’s upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers.
In Turin, Andrea Belotti converted a pair of penalties with Alex Berenguer bagging a brace of his own to get Torino back to winning ways with a 4-0 romp over 10-man Brescia.
Torino snapped their six-match winless run and inflicted a first defeat on new Brescia coach Fabio Grosso, whose side are second from bottom in the Serie A table.
Brescia, with a game in hand, fell to their fourth consecutive defeat with their winless run now stretching back seven games.
Torino’s first win since September 26 puts them 11th.