April 8, 2018 / 3:46 PM / a year ago

Soccer: Napoli keep title race alive with dramatic win over Chievo

MILAN (Reuters) - Napoli missed a penalty and gifted their opponents a goal before scoring twice late in the game to snatch a 2-1 win over lowly Chievo on Sunday and keep the Serie A title race alive.

Soccer Football - Serie A - Napoli vs Chievo Verona - Stadio San Paolo, Naples, Italy - April 8, 2018 Napoli's Amadou Diawara celebrates with team mates REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

Napoli’s title challenge appeared to be petering out after Dries Mertens saw his penalty saved early in the second half and Mariusz Stepinski put the Flying Donkeys ahead with 17 minutes left.

But substitute Arkadiusz Milik headed an equaliser with one minute remaining and Amadou Diawara grabbed the winner in the third minute of stoppage time with his first-ever Serie A goal to leave Napoli four points behind leaders Juventus.

Juventus, chasing a seventh successive title, lead with 81 points after their 4-2 win at Benevento on Saturday with Napoli on 77, Lazio and Roma on 60 and Inter Milan on 59.

“We won a game that we deserved to win,” said Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri.

“It seemed as if there was some sort of curse on the match. The statistics were blatantly in our favour and the finale brought logic to the match.

“I’m very happy for the fans because we wouldn’t have turned this game around without them.”

Napoli dominated the first half but could not find a way through Chievo’s packed penalty area.

Napoli were awarded a penalty in the 51st minute after Fabio Depaoli tugged Dries Mertens’ arm. The relief around the San Paolo was palpable but it was short-lived as the Belgian’s spot kick was saved by Stefano Sorrentino.

It got worse for Napoli as they lost possession in their own half and Emanuele Giaccherini — on loan to Chievo from Napoli — found Stepinksi who fired past Pepe Reina.

Lorenzo Tonelli headed against the Chievo bar as Napoli poured forward and they finally levelled when Milik, who has missed most of the season with a knee injury, scored with a looping header from Insigne’s cross.

But the drama was not over as a corner landed at Diawara’s feet and the Guinean midfielder, in his second season at Napoli, curled his shot into the far corner to spark delirious scenes.

Inter dropped to fifth, outside the Champions League spots, after losing 1-0 to Torino where their former forward Adem Ljajic scored the only goal. It was also the first time Torino coach Walter Mazzarri had faced Inter since he was fired by them in 2014.

Lazio moved into third, ahead of Roma on goal difference with a 2-1 win at Udinese who lost their eighth league game in a row.

Kevin Lasagna put Udinese ahead only for Ciro Immobile, with his 27th league goal of the season, and Luis Alberto to turn it around by halftime.

Two teams in the bottom three both won as Crotone beat Bologna 1-0 at home and Verona overcame Cagliari by the same score.

Simeon Tochukwu scored the winner for Crotone who stayed 18th in the 20-team table but are only behind SPAL on goal difference, with both on 27 points.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Romulo scored Verona’s only goal from a penalty awarded with the help of the video replay system (VAR) for handball by Leonardo Pavoletti. Verona, two points behind SPAL and Crotone, had a second goal chalked off by VAR for offside.

AC Milan forward Nikola Kalinic scored his first goal since early December to earn them a 1-1 draw at home to Sassuolo after Matteo Politano had given the visitors a shock lead at San Siro.

Kalinic struck with a shot on the turn in the 86th minute to leave Milan sixth on 52 points, eight adrift of the Champions League places.

Writing by Brian Homewood in Bern; Editing by Toby Davis and Ian Chadband

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