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Top-two battle ends all square as Dzeko earns Inter draw at Napoli

Soccer Football – Serie A – Napoli v Inter Milan – Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, Naples, Italy – February 12, 2022 Inter Milan’s Edin Dzeko celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

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Feb 12 (Reuters) – Inter Milan retained top spot in Serie A with a 1-1 draw in a top-of-the-table clash at Napoli on Saturday, as Edin Dzeko responded to an early Lorenzo Insigne penalty.

The result leaves the Italian champions one point clear of Napoli below them with a game in hand, but third-placed AC Milan will go top if they beat Sampdoria on Sunday.

“We weren’t worried when we were seven points off top and we won’t be if Milan overtake us tomorrow,” Inter assistant coach Massimiliano Farris told DAZN.

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“We only have one big game left against Juventus, but we must face every match in the same way.”

Insigne fired the hosts in front in the seventh minute after Stefan de Vrij trod on Victor Osimhen’s foot in the box, and Piotr Zielinski almost made it two with a shot that thumped the post.

Inter struck back early in the second half when Dzeko profited from a fortuitous deflection to hammer home a finish, as Simone Inzaghi’s side avoided a second damaging defeat in a row following last weekend’s Milan derby loss.

“We must always calmly accept what the pitch dictates and then we can learn our lessons,” Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti told DAZN.

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“We played a very good game, but there were a few balls we didn’t take advantage of and we didn’t manage to keep the ball.”

The Nerazzurri’s derby defeat opened up the title race and handed Napoli the chance to go top with a win in their bid for a first league title since the Diego Maradona-inspired 1989-90 season.

The hosts took an early lead when referee Daniele Doveri awarded a spot kick after a look at the pitchside VAR monitor, which captain Insigne dispatched.

Zielinski was inches away from doubling Napoli’s lead with a curler from the edge of the box that struck the woodwork, while Denzel Dumfries dragged a shot well wide from a good position with Inter’s best chance of the first half.

Inter leveled less than two minutes after the restart when Dzeko’s header struck Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s foot and bounced back into the path of the Bosnian, who drilled a finish off the bar and in from close range.

The visitors had captain Samir Handanovic to thank for keeping them level, as the Slovenian reacted sharply to stop an Osimhen strike before superbly charging down an Eljif Elmas effort at the back post.

Elsewhere, Mattia Zaccagni scored a double to add to a Ciro Immobile penalty as sixth-placed Lazio beat Bologna 3-0 in Rome to move three points behind Juventus in fourth.

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Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie Editing by Toby Davis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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