Arkadiusz Milik on Monday came off the bench to snatch a late 2-1 win for SSC Napoli over Atalanta BC that consolidated second place in Serie A and reduced the gap on leaders Juventus to eight points.
Polish forward Milik scored the winner five minutes from time shortly after coming on after Fabian Ruiz had put the visitors ahead just two minutes into the clash in Bergamo and former Napoli man Duvan Zapata had pulled Atalanta level 11 minutes after the break.
Napoli closed the gap on Juventus, who pulled 11 points clear with a 3-0 win at ACF Fiorentina on Saturday with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring from the penalty spot to bag his 10th goal in 14 games.
“It’s a very, very important goal for all of us,” Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “Milik went through a difficult period because he didn’t play consistently, but he remained motivated and focused, so deserves this.”
Ancelotti’s side came out firing on all cylinders after their title hopes took a serious hit with a goalless draw against bottom club AC Chievo Verona in their previous league match.
The coach stuck with the same starting lineup that beat Red Star Belgrade 3-1 in the UEFA Champions League last week.
Captain Marek Hamsik started the move that led to the opener with just a minute on the clock, passing to Lorenzo Insigne who crossed for Ruiz to tap in his third goal since joining from Real Betis Balompie.
Zapata tested Napoli goalkeeper David Ospina in the first half with defender Raul Albiol also clearing off the Colombian after the break, but he broke though on 56 minutes when Hans Hateboer headed the ball down and he blasted in from close range.
Milik came on for Dries Mertens after 81 minutes and four minutes later picked up a Mario Rui cross to fire in the winner for his fifth goal of the season.
The Polish striker said the win would give his side confidence ahead of next week’s decisive Champions League clash with Liverpool at Anfield.
“Before the Champions League, we have another tough Serie A game against Frosinone. Of course, we want to beat Liverpool, we know it won’t be easy, but we believe in ourselves,” Milik said.
Napoli moved three points ahead of Inter, who played out an entertaining 2-2 draw against AS Roma at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.
Atalanta are in 11th place.
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