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22 February 2024

Chievo dent Napoli title hopes

Napoli’s Edinson Cavani (left) and teammate Marek Hamsik react after Chievo scored a goal during a Serie A match at the Bentegodi stadium in Verona, Italy, on Wednesday. (AP)


Mid-table Chievo put a huge dent in second-placed Napoli’s Serie A title hopes as they completed the double over their opponents this season with a 2-0 win in Verona on Wednesday.

And the pressure is mounting on Juventus coach Luigi Delneri as his team lost for the fifth time in eight games since the turn of the year with a 2-1 reverse at Palermo.
Davide Moscardelli and Gennaro Sardo scored the goals to down an out of sorts Napoli who dropped to five points off leaders AC Milan, who drew 0-0 with Lazio on Tuesday.
Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri had warned his team before the game that they always struggle against Chievo, and they had already been beaten 3-1 at home, but the players didn’t heed his advice.
“It was a terrible day, a game played on a pitch that didn’t help us against the Chievo we expected who played with athleticism,” said Mazzarri.
“But these games can help us improve.
“We’re not looking at the table. But today could have been a sign of maturity if we’d even gone home with a point.
“Instead our great desire to win saw us slip up.”
On six minutes Sardo was off target with a header and soon after Davide Mandelli shot just wide.
Napoli created nothing going forward and Chievo went deservedly ahead on 20 minutes with a brilliant goal from Moscardelli, who took down a Sergio Pellissier chipped pass in the area and then curled a peach of a left footer around a defender and in off the far post.
It should have been two on 36 minutes as Napoli goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis charged from his area to deny Pellissier but with the simple task of lobbing the ball back over the goalkeeper and into the unguarded net, Moscardelli missed the ball completely.
Incredibly, in injury time Napoli had a similar chance with Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino left stranded in no-man’s land after a mistake by Marco Andreoli but Serie A top goalscorer Edinson Cavani, with an identical task to Moscardelli’s earlier one, scuffed his shot horribly off target.
Any hope Napoli had of improving after the break was quashed on 50 minutes as Sardo won a 50-50 challenge and then somehow ran through three defenders before cleverly slotting the ball past De Sanctis.
It took the visitors until 10 minutes from time to finally threaten as Christian Maggio crossed for Cavani who headed just wide.
But five minutes from time Moscardelli wasted a chance to close out the game on the counter, blazing over from eight yards.
Palermo leapfrogged their opponents with their win in Sardinia, leaving sorry Juve eighth in Serie A.
The hosts took an early lead, just as they had done against Inter Milan at the weekend, as Javier Pastore crossed from deep and Fabrizio Miccoli took the ball in his stride before finshing under goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon from a tight angle.
Giulio Migliaccio then headed home a Mattia Cassani cross after a short corner to make it 2-0.
Claudio Marchisio got Juventus back into the match as he finished through a crowd of bodies after goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu had made a mess of another corner.
Although they had blown a 2-0 lead against Inter, this time Palermo held out.
And Delneri remained defiant despite his side’s poor run.
“I don’t look at current results, you (journalists) are used to looking at the table every Sunday and making an immediate assessment,” he said.
“The club will make its assessment on whether I’ve done a good job or not at the end of the season and as long as they have faith in me I’ll remain calm.”
Roma missed the chance to jump above city rivals Lazio into third as they were held 1-1 at home to lowly Brescia while in-form Udinese failed to move into the Champions League places as they were surprisingly held 1-1 at home to Bologna.