Mon, Dec 09, 2013 - Page 19 News List

Udinese deny Napoli in thriller, Balotelli saves Milan

Reuters, ROME

Two goals in three minutes from SSC Napoli’s Goran Pandev were not enough to secure victory as his side threw away a two-goal lead to draw 3-3 at home to Udinese in a Serie A thriller on Saturday.

In the day’s other game, a stunning late free-kick by Mario Balotelli, his second goal of the match, helped AC Milan snatch a 2-2 draw at AS Livorno.

Rafael Benitez’s Napoli stay third with 32 points from 15 games, two points behind AS Roma and eight adrift of leaders Juventus, who beat Bologna 2-0 on Friday and look an even stronger bet for their third consecutive league title.

“We have to improve,” Benitez said.

Pandev tapped in the opening goal in the 38th minute after showing delicate control.

He quickly made it 2-0 when Gonzalo Higuain charged to the byline and pulled the ball back for the Macedonian forward, who spun well before guiding in his sixth league goal of the season.

Napoli defender Federico Fernandez let Udinese back into the game with an own-goal seconds before halftime when he clipped in a tame Thomas Heurtaux header.

Bruno Fernandes then deservedly drew Udinese level with a dipping shot that confused Napoli ’keeper Rafael with 21 minutes left.

Napoli went back in front seconds later when Blerim Dzemaili tapped in the rebound after a curling effort from Higuain, but Udinese refused to give up and equalized with 10 minutes to go when Dusan Basta scored after a goalmouth scramble.

The visitors then almost snatched victory when Brazilian Maicosuel burst through on goal, only for Christian Maggio to thwart him with a superb sliding tackle.

The challenge enraged Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin, who was sent off for protesting.

Eighth-placed AC Milan were rescued at AS Livorno by Balotelli, who thumped a spectacular shot past goalkeeper Francesco Bardi from 30m with six minutes left.

His leveler came after two sucker punches from Luca Siligardi and Paulinho had turned the game in the home team’s favor following Balotelli’s seventh-minute opener.

The striker almost clinched a barely deserved win for Milan when he hit the bar with a looping effort two minutes from the end.

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