IIt was the 91st minute at San Siro that Milan scored the goal that could have saved the Serie A title race. Technically, Fiorentina defender Nicola Milenkovic scored for them – he deflected Aster Vranckx’s diagonal into his own net – but few have glossed over the finer details at the Kernkraft 400, a German dance floor older than some of Zombie Nation’s players on the pitch. open address.
A crowd of 73,000 danced and sighed with relief. Milenkovic’s own goal secured the 2-1 victory and kept Milan at the top, ‘only’ eight points behind Napoli. The league leaders have a double-digit advantage over all other sides in the division leading up to the World Cup recess.
Napoli deserve every advantage as they have played Italy’s best football from a distance this season. On Saturday, they beat Udinese 3-2 in a game less close than the score line, claiming their 11th consecutive league win. They scored three goals an hour later against their opponents, who had previously beaten Roma 4-0 and Inter 3-1.
It was another opportunity to admire the extraordinary talent of Victor Osimhen. He scored the first goal with a classic striker, rushed into the space behind the goalkeeper and made a header diagonally from Eljif Elmas. The timing of his run and leap was everything. Osimhen looked a foot taller than Jaka Bijol; in reality, it looks a few inches shorter.
Napoli’s second goal was a brilliant team move, as Piotr Zielinski hit the ball from the left corner of his own penalty area and found Osimhen in the middle of the park. The forward turned and took the two Udinese players with him as he drove to the right flank, then misplaced them without looking back at Hirving Lozano.
He also angles inward before returning to the game, turning to Zielinski, who runs the length of the court. The Polish midfielder made another tap to put the following player on the wrong foot and another to secure the ball, before taking a shot into the lower right corner of the net.
It was the 31st minute and Elmas added the third goal to Napoli in the 58th minute and André-Frank Zambo scored Anguissa’s goal. pass after beating Bijol one to one. Still, Napoli took the lead and only some sharp saves from Udinese goalkeeper Marco Silvestri kept the lead at three.
Udinese’s counter kick didn’t come until the 79th minute, but it was still an admirable goal. Roberto Pereyra sent the ball into the net from the left, Isaac Success made a pass from the right and Ilija Nestorovski sent the half volley into the net for the first time.
Three minutes later, Udinese scored again. Kim Min-Jae made the mistake of being captured by Lazar Samardzic, who completely punished the mistake with a brutal ending. A rapid-fire stunt can cause panic on a less confident side. Naples calmly calmed the ship and went home. Udinese has another shot in the game, and this is from outside the penalty area.
The victory meant that Napoli finished the first part of this season with 41 points. They’ve won 13 of their 15 games – something no other club has done in Serie A history except Juventus. bianconeri admittedly, he did this four times. Unsurprisingly, they finished top every time. (One of these was the 2005-06 season, when they were later stripped of their title.)
Journalists continued to ask full-time if Naples was potentially ready to talk about themselves. scudetto They became winners for the first time since 1990. Frankly, at this point, it would be ridiculous to argue otherwise. No one knows how a World Cup cutout will affect this season but right now Napoli are the clear favorites for the simple and obvious reason why they’re so much better than anyone else.
“It doesn’t matter to me if you talk about it. scudetto or not,” Luciano Spalletti said on Saturday. “I know we have 69 points to play for this season and it’s an ocean. All we have to do is keep our eyes open in the fog that other people want to create.”
He thanked his team for “playing like Martians”, but the manager deserves to keep them on track even when key players are absent. Saturday’s match finished third in a row for Napoli without this Serie A season’s rising star Khvicha Kvaratskelia, but his replacement Elmas rivaled Osimhen as man of the match and matched fluently with another team player, Mathias Olivera. Mário Rui is at left-back.
Spalletti said he’s looking forward to the World Cup, which, as opposed to breaking his team’s rhythm, gives his players a chance to rest and regroup for mid-season training camp. Only five of them go to Qatar. Osimhen’s Nigeria and Khvica Kvaratskhelia’s Georgia failed to qualify, while others like Mário Rui for Portugal were simply overlooked.
Spalletti’s point of view is not shared by everyone. Lazio coach Maurizio Sarri told reporters last week that he probably wouldn’t watch a World Cup, which he described as an “insult to football”, confusing him all season.
His team intervened on a less positive note, losing 3-0 to Juventus. Lazio were the other team that could stay within eight points of Napoli, but were instead bounced off by their opponents. After starting the campaign with two wins in Juventus’ first seven games, who would have guessed that they would reach the World Cup in third place?
Six consecutive clean pages allowed for a rapid rise, and performances began to catch on. The gradual return of Federico Chiesa, who scored the third from the bench against Lazio, gives them more optimism for a stronger second part of the campaign.
They are not the only ones gaining momentum in recent weeks. Inter finished the season with an impressive 3-2 away win over Atalanta and have six wins from their last seven games. The problem for all of them, as Juventus’ Massimiliano Allegri has pointed out, is that Napoli set an impossible pace on their way to 52 points mid-season.
It was left to Milanese director Paolo Maldini to take a defiant note. “Of course we believe we can catch Napoli,” he said after his team’s last win against Fiorentina. “When we played the derby last year, we were seven points behind Inter and then we managed to win. We know very well that it is not easy to maintain this rhythm to the end.”
The familiar sound of a twenty-year-old dance floor in San Siro on Sunday evening was a reminder of the enthusiasm that carried Milan to their first title in 11 years last season, and just a warning that they hadn’t stopped defending it. yet.