Udinese upset Napoli challenge
Napoli failed a big test of their Serie A title credentials this evening as they lost 2-1 at home to Udinese to pave the way for AC Milan to clinch the Scudetto.
The hosts needed to win at the Stadio San Paolo to make it a two-horse race for the title after Inter Milan slipped up yesterday, but they instead remained six points adrift of the league leaders with five games remaining.
Udinese, who won thanks to goals from Gokhan Inler and German Denis, boosted their own chances of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League next season by reducing the arrears on fourth-placed Lazio to just one point.
Edinson Cavani had a penalty saved in the closing stages of the match after Maurizio Domizzi was sent off for Udinese, before Giuseppe Mascara scored a consolation deep into stoppage time.
The San Paolo was sold out in anticipation of a match which over 60,000 Napoli fans were expecting to keep them in the hunt for the title.
Udinese arrived without their star strikers Antonio Di Natale and Alexis Sanchez, fuelling the home fans' optimism, but they were left bitterly disappointed by the defiance of Francesco Guidolin's Zebrette.
Denis almost grabbed the lead in the fourth minute with a shot from 15 yards out which Morgan De Sanctis saved well. It was a warning that Napoli did not heed as they continued to allow Udinese's third-choice striker chances.
Inler, Denis do damage
They afforded Inler too much time and room to put the visitors in front in the 56th minute, although there was little the Napoli rearguard could have done about his excellent long-range effort into the top corner of De Sanctis' goal. Inler, who is a reported target of Napoli, barely celebrated his stunning opener.
Denis added a second five minutes later, deservedly getting his name on the score-sheet. Pablo Armero crossed the ball from the left after beating two Napoli players, and Denis controlled the ball on his chest before sending his shot into the far corner.
Napoli finally responded with Christian Maggio heading against the crossbar in the 74th minute. But they could not find a way back into the match and Cavani's penalty, which was saved by Samir Handanovic in the 89th minute, typified their day.
Domizzi was sent off more for his protests than actually the foul he was adjudged to have committed to give away the spot-kick. Mascara finally give the home fans some joy, but it was too little too late - in the fifth minute of stoppage time - for Napoli to recover fully.