Andrea Petagna kept Napoli’s faltering Serie A title hopes alive with the only goal in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Sampdoria.
Burly forward Petagna struck the winner with an uncharacteristically acrobatic bicycle kick just before half-time to keep Napoli five points behind new leaders AC Milan, 3-0 winners at Venezia in the day’s early match thanks to a Theo Hernandez brace.
Missing a number of key players to Covid-19 infections and the Africa Cup of Nations, Napoli dominated at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona but lacked a cutting edge against a resolute Samp.
After three straight home defeats Napoli fans thought they were in for more bad luck when in the space of five first-half minutes captain Lorenzo Insigne limped off the field and Juan Jesus had what would have been his first Serie A goal in three years chalked off for offside following a VAR check.
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The crowd were furiously appealing for a penalty for a foul on Dries Mertens when out of nowhere Petagna threw his substantial frame into the air and hooked home a delicate second goal of the season following a weak clearance.
Luciano Spalletti’s team sit third, three points behind champions Inter Milan, who host Lazio at the San Siro in one of two late matches hoping to avenge their only league defeat so far this season, in Rome back in mid-October.
Inter have played two games fewer than Milan and Napoli after their match at Bologna on Thursday was not played due to Covid infections among the opposition squad but can still reclaim top spot with a win against coach Simone Inzaghi’s former club.