Napoli moves up to second, Inter stumbles
Napoli moves up to second, Inter stumbles
Napoli are within two points of leaders Juventus thanks to Marek Hamsik’s second-half goal which moved them above an Inter side undone by Nicola Sansone’s fine late strike.
Juventus have 32 points from 14 games ahead of Napoli on 30 with Fiorentina and Inter level on 28 points after the Milan side missed the chance to narrow the gap with a poor display.
Parma had most of the possession in the first half but failed to make it count with Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic comfortably dealing with a tame Amauri shot and also keeping out attempts from the lively Jonathan Biabiany and Gabriel Paletta.
With Parma snapping at their heels and closing down the midfield, Inter struggled to find space despite the best efforts of seasoned campaigner Esteban Cambiasso, whose 36th-minute header was cleared off the line by Jaime Valdes.
The visitors had a bit more bite after the break but Parma held their nerve and continued to cut off the supply lines to Inter’s ineffective front pair Diego Milito and Rodrigo Palacio.
Parma took a 75th-minute lead when Sansone ran 40 meters, easing his away from two defenders before calmly slotting the ball past Handanovic with a neat right-foot shot.
Inter immediately set about trying to find an equalizer, with substitute Coutinho, on for Ricardo Alvarez, linking up well with Milito before testing Parma keeper Antonio Mirante.
Parma, who have struggled to find consistency but remain unbeaten at home, showed plenty of team spirit and concentration to cope with Inter’s constant pressing toward the end leaving the visitors frustrated and, at the final whistle, deflated.
The win takes Parma up to seventh on 20 points.
Napoli, without suspended striker Edinson Cavani and the injured Goran Pandev, made hard work of beating Cagliari, with Hamsik’s 73rd minute goal enough to earn the three points.
The visitors looked flat at times although young striker Lorenzo Insigne went close to scoring either side of the half-hour mark, hitting the post and later dragging a shot wide.
Cagliari appealed for a penalty when Alessandro Gamberini upended midfielder Daniele Conti, who then directed a Thiago Ribeiro corner against the post just before the break.
Napoli were on the back foot for much of the second half but scored when Juan Zuniga ran into the box in the 72nd and found Hamsik who struck the ball past keeper Michael Agazzi, sparking Cagliari protests that the Slovakian was offside.
“It was a difficult game, but we did really well,” Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri told Sky Italia. “We suffered a bit during the second half, but I have to compliment my team.
Addressing his side’s chances of winning Serie A, he added: “I’m really not thinking about the title. We’ll see where we are at the end of the season.”
What now for Saudi Arabia’s big four teams?
- Al-Hilal won their 15th top-flight title this season.
- Big summer for Saudi Arabia football with the Green Falcons at the World Cup.
Now the Saudi Professional League season is over for another year Arab News can look back at their title tilts and what the big four clubs have to do over the coming months ahead of the next season.
Coaching situation: Ramon Diaz was in charge for much of the season, but was fired in February after setbacks in the Champions League.
Assistant Juan Brown did Okay in the final stretch, but a top-class coach could get more out of this team.
Squad priorities: A reliable goalscorer to support Omar Khribin and with veteran defender Osama Hawsawi leaving for pastures new, a replacement center-back with leadership qualities. Welcoming back the major stars — Carlos Eduardo, Khribin, Nawaf Al-Abed and Salem Al -Dawsari — will be a major boost.
Aim next season: Win the AFC Champions League
Coaching situation: Sergiy Rebrov is out of contract at the end of June. His future is likely to depend on how the team fares against Al-Sadd in the second round of the AFC Champions League in May.
Squad priorities: There is not much wrong. The Jeddah giants were the highest scorers in the league last season and had the second best defense. Keeping star midfielder Leonardo fit will help as will a little cover in the center of defense. Star striker Omar Al-Somah fell out with the coach in a public way in the penultimate game of the season. It may be that one of them has to go. The Syrian has been player of the year for three years and has a longer contract than Rebrov.
Aim next season: Win the league. Maintain good performances in Asia.
Coaching situation: Krunoslav Jurcic arrived in January and the former Croatian national team boss produced an upswing in results. May just be a temporary appointment and it needs to be sorted quickly.
Squad priorities: Looks good with the Saudi Arabia national team keeper, a strong center-back pairing of Omar Hawsawi and Bruno Uvini and the full-back position seemingly sorted with the January signing of Saad Suhail. They probably need a defensive midfielder and have to keep Junior Kabananga. The DR Congo striker has shown enough in his few weeks at the club to suggest that he could be a real star next season, especially with Leonardo pulling the strings behind him.
Aim next season: A genuine title challenge and getting through the play-offs into the 2019 AFC Champions League.
Coaching situation: A bottom half finish is unacceptable for a team with Al-Itithad’s stature and history. Chilean coach Jose Luis Sierra may find that winning domestic cups is no substitute for challenging for the title.
Squad priorities: There is too much reliance on players such as Carlos Villanueva, a creative spark in the team, and Fahad Al-Ansari, the midfield engine, who are the wrong side of 30. The possible return of star winger Fahad Al-Muwallad will help, but an introduction of energy is needed.
Aim next season: Top three and, if the team wins the King’s Cup, a good showing in the 2019 AFC Champions League.