Milan (AFP) – Gonzalo Higuain fired a last-gasp leveller past England keeper Joe Hart to save Juventus’s blushes in a 1-1 derby draw with Torino that kept the Serie A giants’ title celebrations on ice Saturday.
Torino looked to be heading for their first derby win over Juve since April 2015 when Adem Ljajic put the visitors ahead minutes after the restart.
But Sinisa Mihajlovic’s visitors lost midfielder Afriyie Acquah in the 57th minute after he was sent off for a second bookable offence.
And despite battling all the way, their hopes of causing an upset days after the club commemorated the 68th anniversary of the Superga air disaster — which killed the entire ‘Grande Torino’ squad when their plane hit the Superga Basilica overlooking the city on May 4 1949 — ended when Higuain fired a low angled strike past Hart in the second minute of added-on time.
With 24 Serie A goals so far, Argentina striker Higuain, who won the top scorer’s ‘Capocannoniere’ award with a record 36 goals for Napoli, is now one shy of Torino striker Andrea Belotti and Edin Dzeko of Roma.
Juve’s fourth draw of the campaign leaves the 32-times champions top of the pile with an eight-point lead on Napoli, who moved up to second earlier with a 3-1 win at home to Cagliari.
It means Juventus will have to wait until at least next week, when they travel to Roma, before even thinking about making plans to celebrate a record sixth consecutive scudetto.
Roma, in third at two points behind Napoli and 10 behind Juventus, can move back up to second place with a win away at AC Milan on Sunday.
Earlier, Dries Mertens hit a brace on his 30th birthday to maintain his own bid for the top goalscorer’s award as Napoli cruised to past the Sardinians at the San Paolo.
It took only two minutes for Mertens to send Napoli on their way to a 23rd win of the season, the Belgian getting behind the Cagliari defence to fire home from Faouzi Ghoulam’s whipped cross from the left.
It was Napoli’s 100th goal in all competitions this term, and more was to come.
Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne and captain Marek Hamsik, with a spectacular lob from midfield that almost beat out-of-position ‘keeper Rafael, all came close in a one-sided opening half.
Mertens had his second four minutes after the restart when he drilled past Rafael from the edge of the box, before setting up Insigne for a curler into the far top corner on 67 minutes.