Juve remain in touch with leaders Inter as Napoli’s nightmare continues

Juventus’ British forward #17 Samuel Iling-Junior (R) in action during the Italian Serie A football match between US Salernitana and Juventus FC at the Arechi Stadium, in Salerno, on January 7, 2024. AFP

Dusan Vlahovic made sure that Juventus stayed two points behind Serie A leaders Inter Milan with the decisive late goal in Sunday’s 2-1 win at 10-man Salernitana, as troubled Napoli crashed to a 3-0 defeat at Torino.

Serbia striker Vlahovic thumped home a perfect header in the first minute of stoppage time to snatch the points for Juve, completing a fine comeback from a goal down at the Stadio Arechi.

“We gave everything tonight and we deserved to win. We never give up, we give everything right to the end,” said Vlahovic to DAZN.

“Our aim is to get back into the Champions League, after that we’ll take each game as it comes and see where we end up.”

The 23-year-old’s seventh goal of the season came at the end of a battle in soaking Salerno, where the hosts fought bravely even after losing goalscorer Giulio Maggiore to a second booking in the 53rd minute.

Maggiore had shot Salernitana ahead six minutes before the break but substitute Samuel Iling-Junior put the away side level with a powerful close-range finish in the 65th minute, setting up a blockbuster finale.

And Vlahovic made sure that Juve kept pace with Inter who were controversial winners over Verona on Saturday and have a much tougher run of fixtures over the next month.

Salernitana, who were hammered 6-1 by Juve in the Italian Cup midweek, stay bottom of the division after an unfortunate defeat, their fifth in seven matches.

Napoli crumble

Furious Napoli supporters launched flares onto the pitch at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino during the latest embarrassing loss which left them languishing in ninth place and came via goals from Antonio Sanabria, Nikola Vlasic and Alessandro Buongiorno.

Last season’s historic Scudetto has now been forgotten as Napoli sink further into the abyss with each passing week, their third defeat in four matches in all competitions fully deserved after a shambolic display in Turin.

Without Nigeria striker Victor Osimhen, Walter Mazzarri’s side failed to score for the fourth straight match and are completely unrecognisable from the team which charged to title glory last term.

“We have to apologise to the fans for the performance… we’re trying to find ways to stimulate the team and get back to some sort of normality,” said Napoli’s sporting director Mauro Meluso.

Meluso spoke to DAZN after a series of post-match summits with Mazzarri and the team, and insisted that the coach — who was suspended for Sunday’s match — would not be sacked.

“I, the club and the team have total faith in the coach, so we’re not having thoughts in that direction,” he added.

Mazzarri was brought in to clean up the mess left by predecessor Rudi Garcia but Napoli are now a full 20 points behind league leaders Inter Milan and closer to the relegation zone than the top of the table.

Milan cruise

A sumptuous early strike from Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Olivier Giroud’s 31st minute penalty set third-placed AC Milan on the way to a 3-0 win at Empoli which was sealed by Chaka Traore with two minutes remaining.

Missing a host of players to injury and the Africa Cup of Nations, Milan took advantage of their closest rivals for the top four dropping points.

Stefano Pioli’s team are six points ahead of fourth-placed Fiorentina who lost 1-0 at Sassuolo on Saturday, and a further point in front of Bologna in fifth following their draw at Genoa.

Milan have had a bumpy campaign riddled with injuries and questions over Pioli’s future but Sunday’s win was their fifth in six matches in all competitions.

“It’s in the difficult moments that you learn if people have given up on you, and that wasn’t the case here,” said Pioli.

“When things don’t go well we stay together and we give each other a hand.”

Lazio warmed up for their midweek derby with Roma in the Italian Cup quarter-finals by winning 2-1 at Udinese.

Maurizio Sarri’s side are seventh, one point ahead of Roma who were held to a 1-1 home draw by sixth-placed Atalanta.

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