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Leagues: Serie A

Inter’s title defence takes blow as Napoli move level with Milan

Rome (AFP) – Inter Milan’s defence of their Serie A title took another hit on Saturday after they were held to a 1-1 home draw by Fiorentina after Victor Osimhen moved Napoli level on points with leaders AC Milan.

The champions looked set for a grandstand finish at the San Siro after Denzel Dumfries headed them level in the 55th minute, but the game petered out to a stalemate which could leave them six points off the pace come the end of the day.

Milan are at relegation-threatened Cagliari in Saturday’s late match and will be keen to form an even bigger gap between them and their local rivals.

Simone Inzaghi’s side sit third — albeit with a game in hand — after having won just one of their last seven league matches and what was a four-point lead at the start of 2022 has slowly slipped through their fingers.

They face Juventus next weekend in the ‘Derby of Italy’ and have their old rivals, who host bottom team Salernitana on Sunday, four points behind them in fourth and breathing down their neck after a 15-match unbeaten run in the league.

Fiorentina, who silenced the home fans when Lucas Torreira smashed home the opener four minutes after half-time, are eighth and a point away from the European places.

Their three main rivals for a spot in the Europa League or Conference League all play on Sunday however, with Atalanta at Bologna after the Rome derby.

They were saved by VAR 10 minutes after Dumfries’ leveller, when referee Daniele Chiffi overruled his own decision to give Inter a penalty for a foul by Lorenzo Venuti on Lautaro Martinez after an on-field review.

Nikola Milenkovic pulled of a superb block to stop Alexis Sanchez from rifling home an 89th-minute winner and in the end it was Vincenzo Italiano’s side who could have snatched the points, with Jonathan Ikone denied in stoppage time by Samir Handanovic.

Osimhen was the hero of the hour for Napoli with both goals in a 2-1 win over Udinese, his brace keeping Luciano Spalletti’s side right in the hunt.

Nigeria forward Osimhen’s strikes in the 52nd and 63rd minutes ensured that Napoli squeezed past Udinese at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona after Gerard Deulofeu gave the away side a shock lead midway through the first half.

Napoli are chasing a first Serie A title since the days when Maradona inspired them to their only Italian league crowns in 1987 and 1990, and Osimhen is confident they can emulate the great Argentine who died in 2020.

“We keep believing, we have eight games to go, we want to continue the momentum to win every game, and at the end we’ll see. I still believe in the Scudetto,” he told DAZN.

Udinese, who had Pablo Mari sent off on 82 minutes as the visitors came under growing pressure, are 14th and eight points from the relegation zone.

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