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Serie A Round-Up: Napoli, Milan top of table ahead of upcoming clash


Departing Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne scored one goal and set up a stoppage-time winner to help his side beat Lazio 2-1 and move level on points with AC Milan at the top of Serie A on Sunday, ahead of their eagerly anticipated clash next weekend.

Just as it seemed as though Pedro’s late equalizer would prevent Napoli from moving top, Fabián Ruiz combined with Insigne to score the winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time. All the players, including those on the bench and the staff, ran to celebrate in front of the visiting supporters.

Insigne, who is leaving Napoli at the end of the season after 15 years to join Toronto FC in Major League Soccer, had scored the opener in the 62nd minute. He also had another goal ruled out for offside.

Napoli moved above Milan on goal difference. Head-to-head is the first tiebreaker if sides are level on points at the end of the season. Napoli won 1-0 when the two sides met in December.

Napoli was without a win in its previous four matches, and coach Luciano Spalletti hit back at the team’s critics after the victory.

“I would like to underline the fact that everyone was stupidly critical about this team, saying we didn’t have character. They even said that this week. It’s exactly the opposite,” Spalletti said.


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“In general, there’s an ugly atmosphere around Napoli, people saying that the players are soft, but instead they have character. I want to see what they say now … we are fighting at the top of the table.”

 

All Serie A matches started five minutes late this weekend, accompanied by a peace message following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It was a high-tempo match throughout, with plenty of chances for both teams, but Napoli broke the deadlock when Elif Elmas laid off the ball for Insigne, who sent a fierce strike into the bottom right corner.

Insigne thought he had doubled his lead seven minutes later, but it was ruled out on video review for offside.

Lazio leveled two minutes from time when a free kick was headed out by Napoli but only as far as Pedro, who volleyed the ball into the back of the net.

However, Napoli ensured it would head into next week’s crucial match level on points when Elmas again laid off the ball to Insigne and the Napoli captain set up Fabián Ruiz for a magnificent curled strike into the bottom left corner.

(VERY) LATE WINNER

Tammy Abraham scored a penalty deep into stoppage time to end Roma’s winless run as the capital side scraped a 1-0 victory at 10-man Spezia.

Abraham’s penalty came in the ninth minute of second-half injury time, after Roma had hit the woodwork four times and wasted several chances at Spezia, which had played most of the match with 10 men after defender Kelvin Amian was sent off at the end of the first half.

Spezia’s Martin Erlic, left, and Roma’s Tammy Abraham battle for the ball during the Serie A match at the Alberto Picco Stadium.   –  AP

 

It was Roma’s first win in five matches and lifted it to sixth, six points behind fourth-place Juventus. Spezia is four points off the relegation zone.

Roma coach José Mourinho was serving the first of a two-match suspension following his actions toward the referee during and after last week’s 2-2 draw against Hellas Verona.


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Spezia had lost its previous two matches to late goals and its hopes of getting something against Roma diminished on the stroke of halftime when Amian was sent off following a second yellow card.

Roma had already hit the post twice and the woodwork again denied Roma in a frantic finale as Nicolò Zaniolo twice hit the crossbar in the same move before Spezia managed to get it away in a goalmouth scramble.

However, the referee reviewed the incident on the pitchside monitor and awarded a penalty after spotting that Giulio Maggiore had caught Zaniolo in the face with a high boot as the Roma midfielder was diving for a header for the first of his attempts that hit the bar.

Abraham kept his cool to drill the penalty into the bottom left corner.

GOAL DROUGHT ENDED

Giovanni Simeone broke his goal drought in style with a second-half hat-trick to help Hellas Verona beat relegation-threatened Venezia 3-1.

They were Simeone’s first goals since mid-December.

Venezia slipped into the drop zone, three points behind Cagliari after the Sardinian side won 2-1 at Torino.



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