Juventus and Napoli held on for a draw


Italy forward Federico Chiesa earned disappointing Juventus a 1-1 draw with Napoli in Serie A on Thursday, as Massimiliano Allegri’s side remain down in fifth place in the standings.

Juve’s American midfielder Weston McKennie missed a simple chance with his head in the opening stages before Napoli went in front through the club’s all-time top goalscorer Dries Mertens in the 23rd minute.

The visitors had chances to add to their lead before the break, but could not find a way past goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Juve returned for the second half looking like a different side and got back on level terms through Chiesa in the 54th.

They applied pressure in a bid for the winner but could not create the killer chance, having to settle for a point that leaves them on 35 from 20 games, five points behind Napoli in third and 11 off leaders Inter Milan, who have a game in hand.

“We have to see this in positive terms as a point gained,” Allegri told DAZN.

“I’d like to see more calm and focus in the final third, but some of it is also to do with the characteristics of the players.”

“We have some areas where we need to improve, but overall it was a good performance. We ought to score a few more goals, but we got Chiesa on target, did better with set play situations and had that chance with Weston McKennie, so we’re getting there.”

There were doubts over whether Napoli would be allowed to travel to Turin for the clash with Juve amid rising COVID-19 cases in the squad, but the local health authority (ASL) granted them permission to make the trip.

Even with several absentees, Napoli dominated the opening period, becoming only the second side to fire more than 10 shots at goal in a Serie A first half at Juventus after Lazio in August 2013.

Mertens’ first goal since early December, a fizzing strike from the edge of the box, gave the hosts – playing without coach Luciano Spalletti on the touchline after he tested positive for COVID-19 – a deserved halftime lead.

All the goalmouth action happened at the same end early in the second half, as Chiesa drilled just wide before sneaking his effort into the bottom corner via a slight deflection.

Argentine forward Paulo Dybala came off the bench and forced a fine save from Napoli goalkeeper David Ospina as the hosts pushed for a second goal before Szczesny denied Mertens.

Substitute Moise Kean could have snatched all three points for the hosts in stoppage time but headed over leaving Juve still looking for their first league win over a top-four side this season.

AC Milan beat Roma

AC Milan put COVID-19 concerns to one side as they beat AS Roma 3-1 in Serie A on Thursday to close the gap on leaders Internazionale to one point as the visitors finished with nine men.

Rising COVID cases deprived Milan of several key players ahead of their first game since the winter break, but the hosts started well, racing into a 2-0 lead inside 17 minutes thanks to Olivier Giroud’s penalty and a fine Junior Messias finish.

Roma coach Jose Mourinho, making his first return to the San Siro since he guided Inter to the treble in 2010, saw his side respond well, with striker Tammy Abraham getting the visitors back into the match five minutes before the break.

There were chances at both ends of an entertaining second half, before Milan’s task became more manageable after Roma’s Rick Karsdorp was sent off for a second booking in the 74th.

As the 10 men pressed for an equaliser, substitutes Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Rafael Leao combined to put the game to bed eight minutes from time, with the Brazilian arrowing home his side’s third goal.

Roma went down to nine players when Gianluca Mancini was sent off in stoppage time when he conceded another penalty and although Ibrahimovic failed to convert from the spot, it mattered little as the hosts saw out the win.

Inter’s clash at Bologna was abandoned earlier on Thursday due to the number of COVID-19 cases in the hosts’ camp, allowing Milan to put pressure on the champions as they reached 45 points from 20 matches, while Roma are seventh on 32.

“We all worked hard for this win, me, the club and the coaches together with the players,” Milan coach Stefano Pioli told DAZN. “It’s a pleasure to coach these guys.

“They want to grow, learn even through the mistakes we made. We are down in numbers and in three days we play another important match.”

Three Milan players tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, adding to two already in isolation. As a result, Milan’s backline looked especially depleted for Roma’s visit.

All the early action, however, took place down the other end with Abraham penalised for handball, which was spotted by VAR, and gifting veteran Giroud the chance to open the scoring from the penalty spot and the Frenchman made no mistake.

Roma won three of their last four games in all competitions before the winter break but the visitors were poor early on, with a mistake from Roger Ibanez allowing Giroud in again after 17 minutes. Ibanez thought he had got away with it as Giroud hit the post, but the rebound fell to Messias, who made no mistake.

Nicolo Zaniolo and Abraham were denied by excellent saves from Milan’s Mike Maignan as Roma finally found their feet, before former Chelsea striker Abraham made one count, diverting Lorenzo Pellegrini’s strike home.

Karsdorp’s dismissal effectively ended Roma’s hopes of getting back into the match before Leao’s fifth of the season, after Ibrahimovic’s chested assist, put the icing on the cake.

Ibrahimovic then thought he was about to net his eighth league goal of the season from the spot after Mancini’s foul on Leao, but Patricio superbly saved the Swede’s penalty.


Courtesy: Reuters

Facebook Comments