Saturday, 10th June 2023

Napoli top as Atalanta fightback frustrates Juventus

Napoli took sole possession of top spot in Serie A on Sunday with a 3-0 win over Cagliari as champions Juventus's winning run stalled 2-2 at Atalanta.

Napoli’s French Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly celebrates after scoring during the Italian Serie A football match Napoli vs Cagliari on October 1, 2017 at San Paolo stadium in Naples. ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP

Napoli took sole possession of top spot in Serie A on Sunday with a 3-0 win over Cagliari as champions Juventus’s winning run stalled 2-2 at Atalanta.

The stalemate ended the six-time defending champions’ run of six consecutive wins leaving them joint second with Inter Milan — who beat Benevento 2-1 — with big-scoring Napoli top on a maximum 21 points.

“I was worried at the end, as we could have lost it and every point will be precious come the end of the season,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Juventus had been two goals up in Bergamo after Federico Bernardeschi opened on 21 minutes and Gonzalo Higuain added a second four minutes later.

But on-loan Juventus defender Mattia Caldara turned in a rebound to pull one back for Atalanta after half an hour to keep the hosts in touch at the break.

Mario Mandzukic thought he had scored for 3-1, but it was disallowed when the video assistant referee ruled Stephan Lichtsteiner had elbowed Gomez in the face.

Bryan Cristante nodded in a Alejandro Gomez cross to level on 67 minutes for Atalanta who finished fourth in Serie A last season.

Paolo Dybala missed a chance to grab the winner nine minutes from time when Juventus were awarded a penalty — also through the video referee — after an Andrea Petagna handball in the box.

But Albanian goalkeeper Etrit Berisha saved the kick to frustrate the Argentine striker who nevertheless remains top of the Serie A goalscorers with ten so far.

“There are few teams that can bother Juve and we’re among them,” said Gomez after a draw against the champions in April secured them European football this season.

“We missed the first few minutes, but then we had an amazing game. I’m proud of this team.”

‘Another level’

Napoli scored another big win with skipper Marek Hamsik opening on four minutes to move one shy of Argentine legend Diego Maradona’s record of 115 goals for the club.

Dries Mertens added a second from the spot on 40 minutes before Kalidou Koulibaly sealed the perfect seventh victory two minutes after the break.

But despite a record of 25 goals in seven games Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri dismissed premature talk of challenging for the title.

“It’s been six years that I’ve heard talk that we can bother Juventus but in the end they’re the ones who win,” said Sarri. “That means they are a level above everyone else.”

Marcelo Brozovic scored a quick-fire first half brace as Inter scored a tight win at tailenders Benevento, who got one back through Marco D’Alessandro.

Lazio confirmed their push for Champions League football with a 6-1 hammering of Sassuolo to sit fourth — Ciro Immobile scoring his ninth goal from the spot with Luis Alberto and Marco Parolo hitting braces either side of a Stefan de Vrij header.

Edin Dzeko and Alessandro Florenzi scored late for Roma — fifth with a game in hand — in a 2-0 win over AC Milan at the San Siro which piles the pressure on coach Vincenzo Montella.

“Milan had a good match, but Roma was smarter. We showed we were a mature team who worked harder with the head than legs,” said coach Eusebio Di Francesco.

“Napoli is a symphony at the moment but Juve is the team to really beat,” he added.

Torino, in seventh, were held 2-2 by ten-man Verona despite being two goals up until the 89th minute.