Cool-headed Cagliari hold Napoli in 3-3 thriller
Cool-headed Cagliari fought back from a two-goal deficit to claim a precious 3-3 draw away to Napoli on Sunday, which left Rafael Benitez`s men six points behind second-placed Roma.
Rome: Cool-headed Cagliari fought back from a two-goal deficit to claim a precious 3-3 draw away to Napoli on Sunday, which left Rafael Benitez`s men six points behind second-placed Roma.
Juventus had restored their three-point lead at the top of Serie A with a 3-0 rout of Lazio at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday, after Roma had momentarily drawn level thanks to a 2-1 win away to Atalanta.
Napoli were hoping to make it three wins on the trot to maintain their title push but Benitez`s men blew a two-goal lead provided by Gonzalo Higuain and Gokhan Inler as tenacious Cagliari fought back to claim a share of the points.
Benitez told Sky Sport after the game: "We had the game under control, but gifted Cagliari too many chances.
"We started with the right attitude, but then we took our foot off the pedal and let our intensity drop."
Cagliari coach Zdenek Zeman said the secret to claiming an "important point" -- the Sardians are now two above the drop zone -- was adopting the correct mental approach.
"If you have the right mentality, if you focus on playing football, the results will come," said the wily veteran.
"If you`re patient, sooner or later the goal-scoring opportunities come your way."
Higuain, who now has seven goals this season, struck for the fifth consecutive league game when he hit a curling shot from just inside the area past Alessio Cragno after 11 minutes.
Inler doubled Napoli`s lead with a daisycutter from 30 yards that had Cragno clutching at thin air, but Napoli`s two-goal joy was short-lived.
Cagliari centre-forward Victor Ibarbo pounced on a Napoli defensive blunder to fire past Rafael and reduce the arrears seven minutes before the interval.
Brazilian forward Diego Farias levelled matters two minutes after the restart when he ran unhindered to the back post to meet Luca Rossettini`s header.
Smiles were back on Napoli`s faces just after the hour when Jonathan De Guzman sent a fine angled header past the outstretched Cragno, but Farias levelled again six minutes later when he was picked out by Ibarbo`s pass at the back post.
Elsewhere, Fiorentina grabbed a precious 2-1 win away to Verona thanks to Juan Cuadrado`s 62nd minute winner after Nico Lopez had levelled the visitors` 16th-minute opener from Gonzalo Rodriguez just before the interval.
Sampdoria, who are one point adrift in fourth, spurned the chance to leapfrog Napoli into third after settling for a 1-1 draw away to struggling Cesena.
The hosts opener the scoring through defender Stefano Lucchini on the hour mark but saw Constantin Nica turn the ball into his own net 13 minutes from time to hand Sinisa Mihajlovic`s visitors a share of the spoils.
Antonio Di Natale scored his 200th Serie A goal on what was his 400th league appearance when he gave Udinese a 1-0 half-time lead against Chievo, who saw Ivan Radovanovic hit a 74th-minute leveller to grab a point.
Parma`s woes continued, meanwhile, with Roberto Donadoni`s side succumbing 2-0 to promoted Empoli, leaving them rooted to the bottom with 10 defeats having leaked 30 goals in 12 games.
In Sunday`s late match AC Milan host Inter Milan in the city derby in what will be Roberto Mancini`s first game in charge following his return as coach of the Nerazzurri.
Milan sit in eighth place, 14 points adrift of Juventus with Inter, who sacked Walter Mazzarri nearly a fortnight ago, a point further adrift in eighth.
Genoa, in fifth, host Palermo on Monday when a win for the hosts would push them up to fourth place.