May 6, 2018 / 3:25 PM / 20 days ago

Soccer: Juve almost certain to win title after Napoli held

MILAN (Reuters) - Napoli’s Serie A title challenge petered out on Sunday when they twice squandered the lead in a 2-2 draw at home to Torino, leaving Juventus almost certain to collect the trophy for the seventh season in a row.

Soccer Football - Serie A - Napoli vs Torino - Stadio San Paolo, Naples, Italy - May 6, 2018 Napoli's Marek Hamsik, Dries Mertens and team mates look dejected at the end of the match REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

The championship is a mere formality for Juventus after they were left with a six-point lead over Napoli — the only side who can catch them — with two matches to play and a goal difference which is better by 16.

The two sides are level on their head-to-head record.

Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri buried his head in his hands when Lorenzo De Silvestri was allowed a free header to equalise for Torino in the 83rd minute.

“We passed the ball around very well but we made two mistakes which proved very costly,” Sarri told reporters.

“The championship was virtually over before the match and there was a risk we would play without motivation but that was not the case. It was one of our best performances in the last two months.”

Torino defender Nicolas Burdisso gifted Napoli the lead after 25 minutes when he miscontrolled a pass, tried to play his way out of the penalty area and Dries Mertens stole in from behind to poke the ball into the net.

The Bulls stunned the San Paolo stadium by equalising 10 minutes after halftime with a Daniele Baselli shot which deflected off Vlad Chiriches and wrong-footed Napoli keeper Pepe Reina.

Napoli captain Marek Hamsik, who surprisingly started on the bench, was brought on after 69 minutes and made an immediate impact as he rifled home a 25-metre shot with his first touch two minutes later.

But Torino hit back again as Mario Rui allowed De Silvestri to get behind him and head in Adem Ljajic’s floated free kick.

INTER WIN

Inter Milan, who are fifth, boosted their chances of a top-four finish, which would earn them a place in the Champions League group stage, with a 4-0 win at faltering Udinese.

Andrea Ranocchia, Rafinha and Mauro Icardi put Inter 3-0 up at halftime and Borja Valero added a fourth after Udinese had Seko Fofana sent off for stamping on Ivan Perisic.

Inter moved two points behind fourth-placed Lazio who were held 1-1 at home by Atalanta.

Atalanta’s 19-year-old Gambian Musa Barrow, the latest player to roll off their production line of young talent, gave them a second-minute lead and Felipe Caicedo scored from close range to equalise midway through the first half.

AS Roma, two points ahead of Lazio, strengthened their grip on third place with a 1-0 win at troubled Cagliari thanks to a Cengiz Under goal after 15 minutes. Roma goalkeeper Alisson then denied the Sardinians with several outstanding saves.

Fiorentina came from behind to win 3-2 at Genoa with late goals from Valentin Eysseric and Bryan Dabo after the hosts had forward Goran Pandev sent off for a wild tackle on Bruno Gaspar.

Genoa also had Ervin Zukanovic sent off from the substitutes bench for dissent.

At the bottom, Chievo beat Crotone 2-1 to leave both teams level with Udinese on 34 points, one above Cagliari whose defeat to Roma left them in the bottom three.

Verona and Benevento have already been relegated.

Soccer Football - Serie A - Napoli vs Torino - Stadio San Paolo, Naples, Italy - May 6, 2018 Napoli's Marek Hamsik looks dejected as he waves to the fans at the end of the match REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

Writing by Brian Homewood in Bern; Editing by Toby Davis/Pritha Sarkar/Ken Ferris

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