Lorenzo Insigne scored a penalty in the 98th minute as Napoli defeated Cagliari 2-1 to seal the second spot in the Serie A. (Image credit: Twitter)
Lorenzo Insigne stepped up to slot in a 98th-minute penalty as Napoli came from behind to beat Cagliari 2-1 on Sunday to guarantee they finish second in the Italian league this season behind Juventus. Carlo Ancelotti's side has a 10-point lead on third-placed Inter Milan with three games left. But they are a massive 16 points behind Juventus who had already won an eighth consecutive Serie A title with five games to spare. "Keeping up with Juventus was honestly difficult," said Ancelotti. "Of course we lost the strong motivation because the gap was great, but second place satisfies us and the team will certainly be reinforced for next season."
After a drab first half in Naples, the hosts fell behind after Leonardo Pavoletti fired the Sardinians ahead after 63 minutes. But Dries Mertens headed Napoli back into the game with just five minutes to go and in a dramatic finale, the hosts were awarded a late penalty after consultation with VAR when Artur Ionita handled a Faouzi Ghoulam cross and was sent off. Insigne stepped up with the clock ticking to score and ensure that Napoli will finish runners-up for the second consecutive year. Mertens now has 82 Napoli league goals -- one more than club legend Diego Maradona.
Juventus and Napoli are already assured of Champions League football next season but the battle for the final two berths remains tight with six teams in the running.
Atalanta's push for a first-ever berth in Europe's top competition was boosted after a 3-1 comeback win over Lazio as rivals Roma were held 1-1 at Genoa. "We believed in a Champions League place before, but now we believe in it even more," said Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini. The side from Bergamo is just one point behind Inter Milan who was held to a goalless draw at Udinese. Atalanta, who meet Lazio again in the Coppa Italia final on May 15 in Rome, next play Genoa before travelling to Juventus with their final league match against Sassuolo. Roma missed the chance to close the gap after a 1-1 draw at Genoa and are now three points behind Atalanta in fifth.
Torino is two points behind Roma in sixth after a 1-1 draw against Juventus on Friday. But AC Milan, in seventh, can move to three points off the final Champions League place with a win at home against Bologna on Monday.
Ranieri's Roma not giving up
Atalanta had gotten off to the worst possible start after Marco Parolo had opened the scoring for Lazio after just three minutes in the Stadio Olimpico. But Duvan Zapata hit back on 22 minutes for his sixth goal in eight league games. The Colombian has scored one goal more than Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo, with 22 this season, and is three short of league top scorer Fabio Quagliarella of Sampdoria. Timothy Castagne added a second just before the hour mark with Lazio's Brazilian defender Wallace turning into his own net after 76 minutes.
Lazio's Champions League hopes, however, have faded with Simone Inzaghi's side seven points adrift of top four with the Europa League also at risk. In Genoa, Claudio Ranieri's side thought they had the winner when Stephan El Shaarawy volleyed in after 82 minutes. But Cristian Romero nodded in on 90 minutes for Genoa, with the hosts missing the chance for a winner on 96 minutes with Roma goalkeeper Antonio Mirante saving Antonio Sanabria's weak penalty effort. "We needed three points but we're not giving up," said Ranieri. "We're in the running for it and we'll fight until the very end."
In Parma, veteran striker Quagliarella scored a brace for Sampdoria in a 3-3 draw to extend his lead on top of the Serie A scorers to 25 goals. At the bottom of the table, Frosinone joins Chievo in Serie B next season after a 2-2 draw at Sassuolo.