Milan eye Euro return after holding Napoli
AC Milan kept their hopes of European football alive on Sunday with a 2-2 draw at Napoli that leaves them with a strong chance of reaching the Europa League.
Franck Kessie’s penalty 17 minutes from time gave Milan a battling point in Naples after Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Dries Mertens had put the hosts deservedly ahead with an hour gone.
The draw leaves Napoli in sixth place and the final Europa League spot, but as Gennaro Gattuso’s side have already qualified for the competition’s group stage by winning the Italian Cup, seventh place currently offers a place into the qualifying rounds.
Milan, who are two points and one place behind Napoli, are favourites to take the third spot in the Europa, although eighth-placed Sassuolo look keen for continental football despite being four points further back.
“When you get results and put in strong performances against this kind of opponent, it really boosts your confidence,” said Milan coach Stefano Pioli.
“We scored a great goal to take the lead, we fought back to equalise and a point is a good result.”
Theo Hernandez gave the away side the lead against the run of play with 19 minutes gone when he met Ante Rebic’s brilliant cross with a thumping volley, but Napoli responded brilliantly to going behind.
They were deservedly level 14 minutes later thanks to a fizzing free-kick delivery from Lorenzo Insigne which Gianluigi Donnarumma patted out to Di Lorenzo, who tapped home.
Mertens put the hosts ahead on the hour mark when he met Jose Callejon’s low cross with a shot that was deflected past Donnarumma by Alessio Romagnoli.
From there it looked like there would only be one winner but they were given the perfect chance to equalise when Nikola Maksimovic brought down Giacomo Bonaventura in the area.
Kessie made no mistake from the spot, rifling his finish past David Opsina.
Samp edge away form drop
Earlier Sampdoria inched towards safety after they came from behind to win 3-1 at Udinese while their local rivals Genoa climbed out of the relegation zone with a 2-0 win over SPAL that left their opponents on the brink of the drop.
Claudio Ranieri’s Samp are 14th on 35 points, six ahead of third-from-bottom Lecce following their goalless draw at Cagliari, after a gutsy display at the Dacia Arena.
Fabio Quagliarella volleyed Samp level in first half stoppage time of his first appearance since the league restart and Federico Bonazzoli put the away side in the lead with a spectacular bicycle kick six minutes from the end after Udinese twice went close.
Manolo Gabbiadini then made absolutely sure in the final seconds with a beautifully judged curling finish to spark jubilation in the stands between Ranieri and club owner Massimo Ferrero.
Samp’s win came after Genoa had moved themselves out of the drop zone with a simple win over sorry SPAL, who are staring demotion in the face after their fifth defeat in six since top flight football returned in Italy.
Davide Nicola’s Genoa are a point ahead of 18th-placed Lecce and four behind Torino in 16th ahead of their trip to Inter Milan on Monday.
SPAL are rooted to the bottom of the league on 19 points, 11 behind Genoa with six matches remaining.
Elsewhere Parma came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at home with Bologna thanks to two stoppage time goals after announcing their entire matchday squad had tested negative for coronavirus a day after a positive result for a staff member.
Danilo’s glancing header and a curling effort from Roberto Soriano had Bologna two ahead within 16 minutes at the Ennio Tardini stadium.
However Jasmin Kurtic pulled one back for the hosts in the 93rd minute and 10th-placed Bologna were left stunned two minutes later when Roberto Inglese prodded home from a few yards out to salvage the unlikeliest of points for Parma, who stay 12th.
Their match wasn’t the only one to feature a last gasp equaliser, as Patrick Cutrone scored in the 96th minute to give Fiorentina a 1-1 draw at home to Hellas Verona.
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