Italian league leaders Inter Milan slumped to their first defeat since mid-January on Sunday when Napoli edged a 1-0 win that left Jose Mourinho’s men seven points ahead of AC Milan with five games left.
It was only Inter’s third loss of the campaign and came just hours after AC Milan had retained second spot with a Kaka-inspired 3-0 home win over Palermo. Third-placed Juventus were held to a 2-2 draw by bottom club Reggina and are nine points behind Inter.
Uruguayan striker Marcelo Zalayeta grabbed Napoli’s winner with a fierce 73rd-minute drive that beat Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
“Napoli had no real chances, nor did they try, and scored a great goal out of nowhere,” Mourinho said.
“Admittedly if anyone deserved the luck to win it was Napoli, because they put more ambition into it. I’m not angry, just disappointed, as you always prepare the match with the idea of winning,” he said.
AC Milan had effectively wrapped up their match by half-time as Kaka tucked away the first of two penalties in the 10th minute after Massimo Ambrosini had been fouled, and then evergreen veteran Filippo Inzaghi added a second in the 19th minute, heading home from Ambrosini’s cross.
Kaka added a third in the 57th minute after he was felled in the area to make it six wins and a draw in Milan’s last seven matches with 19 goals scored and just two conceded.
However, they have a tough run-in with Juventus and Fiorentina — 4-1 winners over another future opponent of Milan’s AS Roma on Saturday — on their program.
Juventus’ poor recent run continued as Reggina twice went ahead through Antonino Barilla and Icelandic midfielder Emil Hallfredsson, only to be pulled back by veteran Alessandro Del Piero and Cristiano Zanetti.
Juventus coach Claudio Ranieri admitted that it was impossible to paper over the weaknesses in the side which have been exposed in the run of four matches without a win and seen their fans turn on them.
Genoa also surprisingly dropped points as they went down 2-0 to relegation-threatened club Bologna, which could cost them dearly in their quest to secure a Champions League spot next season.
They are fifth, one place outside the qualifying places.
Fiorentina had eased into fourth spot with their thumping win over Roma.
For Roma, however, their Champions League hopes are fading with defeat leaving them in sixth place, six points behind Fiorentina.
In Sunday’s other games it was:
• Torino 1 (Bianchi 10), Siena 0
• Lecce 2 (Munari 11, Tiribocchi 25), Catania 1 (Martinez 47)
• Lazio 0, Atalanta 1 (Talamonti 24)
• Sampdoria 3 (Marilungo 26, 43, Cassano 86), Cagliari 3 (Matri 47, Robert Acquafresca 67-pen, Conti 80)