Tue, Mar 20, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Raul Albiol keeps Napoli’s title dream alive

AFP, ROME

SSC Napoli’s Raul Albiol, top right, scores against Genoa in their Serie A match at the Stadio San Paolo in Naples, Italy, on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

Spanish defender Raul Albiol on Sunday headed in the winner as a 1-0 victory over Genoa kept SSC Napoli’s Serie A title hopes alive, closing the gap on leaders Juventus to two points.

Juventus’ march toward a seventh consecutive scudetto was stalled on Saturday by a goalless draw at struggling SPAL and Napoli seized the opportunity to revive their bid for a first league crown since 1989-1990 after a 4-2 defeat by AS Roma and a goalless draw at Inter in their previous two games had put Juve in control.

Maurizio Sarri’s side were pushed hard, with Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens both hitting the woodwork before Albiol broke through after 72 minutes at the Stadio San Paolo.

“This was an important game, we were coming back from two matches without a win,” Sarri said. “At this stage last season, Juventus had basically already won the title, so this means we are causing them real problems. This is already the second-best campaign in Napoli’s history in terms of points, so we’ll keep pushing.”

Sarri added that the international break had come at just the right time for tired Napoli captain Marek Hamsik, who limped off with a thigh injury after 20 minutes.

Behind the leading pair in the battle for UEFA Champions League places next season, Roma consolidated third place — 14 points behind Napoli — with a 2-0 win over Crotone.

Inter moved up to fourth — four points beind Roma — following their 5-0 rout of UC Sampdoria, with captain Mauro Icardi scoring four times to break through the 100-goal mark in Serie A.

Inter’s win pushed SS Lazio into fifth after the Romans were held 1-1 at home by Bologna.

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