Leaders Inter keep Juve at bay, Napoli collapse at Roma

Inter Milan maintained their four-point lead at the top of Serie A with Saturday’s 2-0 win over Lecce, as Napoli crashed to a 2-0 defeat at Roma which the troubled champions finished with nine men. BSS

Yann Bissek’s first goal in Italy just before half-time at the San Siro and a late finish from Nicolo Barella were enough for Inter to bounce back from cup defeat to Bologna midweek and keep closest challengers Juventus at bay.

“We came into the game off the back of a result which made us unhappy because we played well in the cup,” said Inzaghi.

“It was important to win and that wasn’t guaranteed after Wednesday’s game, so I’m really happy.”

The 23-year-old Bissek has had a bumpy start to life at Inter but his header from Hakan Calhanoglu’s pinpoint free-kick capped a fine performance at centre-back and sent Inter on the way to a fourth straight league win.

Inter are hunting a 20th league title and look in good shape to do that after beating 12th-placed Lecce without injured star striker Lautaro Martinez.

Marko Arnautovic’s underwhelming display up front highlighted how much Inter’s attack relies on 17-goal Martinez, and their unusual impotency allowed Lecce to stay in the game until Barella doubled the hosts’ lead in the 78th minute.

Arnautovic was surrounded by teammates following that strike as it was his deft flick that sent Barella clean through to net his second of the season and end the match as a contest.

“They know I am in a difficult spell,” said Arnautovic, who also missed a couple of decent opportunities.

“I am close to getting back to my best. They can see it, they talk to me every day, but it’s not been easy.”

Dusan Vlahovic kept Juve just about in touch by heading home the decisive goal in a 2-1 win at Frosinone.

Serbia striker Vlahovic, who has had a tricky season, is on six league goals after netting the winner with nine minutes remaining after Jaime Baez had equalised for the hosts following Kenan Yildiz’s opener early in his first Juve start.

“A striker is obviously not happy when they don’t score, or not consistently, but I work hard every day to give something to the team,” Vlahovic told DAZN.

– Napoli collapse at Roma –

Napoli fell a whopping 17 points behind Inter after the latest defeat of a disastrous season as Roma reignited their bid for a top four spot.

Substitute Lorenzo Pellegrini lashed in the opener in 76th minute of a ill-tempered, scrappy encounter at the Stadio Olimpico — which featured 13 bookings and two red cards — before Romelu Lukaku capped the win deep in stoppage time.

Jose Mourinho’s Roma moved into sixth spot above Napoli, whose star striker Victor Osimhen was one of the two players sent off on the day he signed a long-awaited contract extension until 2026.

“We needed to make it a happy Christmas for the fans,” said Mourinho to DAZN.

“We played very well eleven against eleven, had two great chances early on and were always in control.”

Roma travel to Juve next weekend and will be boosted by a deserved win which took them to within three points of high-flying Bologna, who will be fourth at Christmas after beating Atalanta 1-0.

Scotland’s Lewis Ferguson thumped home the winning header with four minutes remaining at the Stadio Dall’Ara as Bologna continued their remarkable season by sitting in the Champions League positions.

Ferguson’s bullet header was the fourth goal of what has been an impressive second season in Italy for the 24-year-old.

And key man Ferguson, who also has Euro 2024 to look forward to next summer, is bullish about Bologna’s chances of Champions League qualification.

“Of course it’s possible,” he said.

“We work so hard… everyone is together at the club, and we’re all pushing in the same direction. There’s a real belief.”

Verona moved out of the relegation zone with a 2-0 victory over Cagliari which snapped a 14-match winless streak.

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