ROME – Napoli, ranked second in the 27th week of Italy’s Serie A soccer tourney, managed to salvage a tie late in its road match against Sassuolo at the Citta del Tricolore, but the southern Italian team remains 18 points in back of league leader Juventus, which appears to be edging inexorably closer to its eighth consecutive “Scudetto” title.
Carlos Ancelotti’s boys, admittedly with little to motivate them in domestic competition because they are so far behind the unstoppable Juventus, just managed to avoid defeat five minutes before the final whistle on a goal by team captain Lorenzo Insigne.
Domenico Berardi had scored from close range for the home squad in the 53rd minute on a pass from Jeremie Boga and it looked like Napoli might go down to defeat with Spaniard Raul Albiol on the injured list, and with Fabian Ruiz and Jose Callejon warming the bench and resting up for UEFA Europe League competition, until Insigne – on a wild and semi-broken drive managed to find a crack in Sassuolo’s defensive wall and pop a deflected shot into the back of the net amid tumbling and sliding defenders.
The tie on the Sassuolo pitch comes after two others for the Neapolitan squad in recent matches – scoreless results against both Fiorentina and Torino – a 2-1 defeat to Juventus and a single 4-0 win a couple of weeks ago at Parma.
But even if the Italian league title is not in doubt, Napoli must still be looking over its shoulder, given that Milan, which is in third place, is just five points in back of them after making up 10 points in its last five matches.
Ancelotti and his crew are now looking carefully at the UEFA Europa League competition however – where they are in the round of 16 – after the team’s 3-0 victory over Salzburg on March 7 and its 2-0 win over FC Zurich on Feb. 21.
The squad must triumph over Salzburg again this Thursday to make it into the quarterfinals.
Unbeaten Juve – which has won 24 of their 27 games this season – had romped to a 4-1 home win over Udinese on Friday and are just 15 points from clinching the Italian Serie A title for the eighth consecutive year with 11 games to play.