Inter Milan kept their title defence alive with a 1-0 win at Juventus thanks to a controversial retaken penalty which moved them three points behind leaders AC Milan and Napoli, 3-1 winners at Atalanta.
The champions came away from the Allianz Stadium in Turin with a narrow win in a bad-tempered match decided by Hakan Calhanoglu’s spot-kick which was scored at the second attempt five minutes into first-half stoppage time.
Inter stay third and extend to four points the gap between themselves and third-placed Juve, who could find themselves 10 points off the pace with seven games remaining should Milan beat Bologna on Monday after their unbeaten league run ended at 16 matches.
A match which started after an Italian and Ukrainian singer belted out a rendition of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ to promote peace in Ukraine turned ugly almost immediately after kick-off, with rough tackles and niggly play which was dominated by the wasteful home side.
Events turned on the final few minutes of the opening period, with bedlam breaking out after Inter were awarded their spot-kick for Alvaro Morata treading on Denzel Dumfries’ foot.
Calhanoglu’s weak first effort was saved by Wojciech Szczęsny and from there chaos ensued, with Inter’s players wheeling away in celebration after the ball was clumsily bundled in by Juve’s defenders.
However a VAR check showed that Matthijs de Ligt, who stopped Calhanoglu from scoring on the rebound, had encroached in the area before the Turk missed his penalty, allowing him a second chance to slam home the opener which was taken with gusto.
That goal was enough for Inter to snatch a win from their fiercest rivals who went closest through substitute Denis Zakaria’s 72nd-minute shot which was tipped onto the post by Samir Handanovic.
Napoli join Milan at summit
Napoli prevailed in Bergamo thanks to Lorenzo Insigne’s early penalty, a sweet Matteo Politano volley eight minutes before half-time and a stunning late breakaway finished by Eljif Elmas just as Atalanta were pushing for a leveller after Marten De Roon pulled one back in the 59th minute.
Napoli were given a huge helping hand by captain Insigne, who was heavily criticised after Italy failed to reach a second World Cup in a row but opened the scoring and also laid on Politano’s strike with a delicate free-kick.
“We believe, we’ve always believed,” said Insigne of Napoli’s title hopes.
“There are still seven matches to go and they’re seven big matches so we need to face them in the right way.”
Defeat for Atalanta continued their dismal home record this season and leaves the one-time title hopefuls in seventh, eight points behind fourth-placed Juve and with little realistic chance of a place in the Champions League.
De Roon’s powerful header looked briefly to have given Atalanta hope of snatching a draw but instead they fell to their fifth loss of the campaign at the Gewiss Stadium, where they have won only four league fixtures.
They have Fiorentina just a point behind them following their 1-0 win over Tuscan rivals Empoli in Sunday’s early match.
“It’s a shame… we created, we pressed, we dominated, but if you don’t score and you concede goals like we did then there’s nothing you can do,” De Roon told DAZN.
Three points ahead of Atalanta are Roma, in fifth after winning 1-0 at Sampdoria thanks to a beautifully-worked goal scored by Henrikh Mkhitaryan to extend their unbeaten league run to 10 matches.
Samp stay in 16th on 29 points, seven from the drop and four ahead of Cagliari, who were thumped 5-1 at Udinese thanks in part to a Beto hat-trick.
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