Home Sports Napoli forced to wait for Serie A title after draw with Udinese

Napoli forced to wait for Serie A title after draw with Udinese

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Napoli will have to wait for their first Serie A title in 33 years after being held to a draw by Salernitana at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

They last won the league in 1990 with a Diego Maradona-inspired side adding to their first title three years earlier.

Luciano Spalletti’s side were on course for the victory they needed when Mathias Olivera headed home a 62nd-minute corner.

But Boulaye Dia equalized with a left-footed drive six minutes from time.

It silenced an expectant crowd who made a cacophony of noise and set off blue smoke flares inside and outside the stadium, where thousands of fans lined the streets, when Napoli went ahead.

“The players are obviously disappointed at not having made our brilliant fans happy tonight,” Spalletti told DAZN.

“But you’ve seen for a while that these points are the hardest ones to get.

“We represent their dreams and that means its right that their dreams are realized by us.”

Despite the disappointment Napoli are almost certain to win the title, with just two points needed from their final six games to secure a third Serie A crown – and first without talisman Maradona.

Their next chance to secure the title will come when they travel to Udinese on Thursday (19:45 BST), but they could also win it before then if results go their way.

Second-placed Lazio, who are 18 points behind, must beat Sassuolo on Wednesday (20:00 BST), while Juventus, who are 20 points back in third with a game in hand, must win later on Sunday (19:45 BST) and on Wednesday.

Napoli were given the chance to wrap up the title with a record-breaking six games to go after Lazio were beaten 3-1 at Inter Milan earlier on Sunday.

Argentina forward Lautaro Martinez came off the bench to score twice and help Inter recover from a 1-0 deficit.

Napoli’s game was due to take place on Saturday but was moved by officials because of concerns about a two-day celebration and public order in the city.

Sunday morning and early afternoon saw thousands of Napoli fans waving flags and flares set off as the expectation grew, particularly after Lazio’s defeat.

The stadium itself, which Napoli renamed after Maradona two years ago, was full 30 minutes before kick-off as fans hoped their three-decade wait was about to end.

The hosts dominated possession throughout but struggled to create chances until Olivera headed home Giacomo Raspadori’s corner.

Wild celebrations followed – with Napoli’s substitutes flooding across the pitch to join in – while the ball was taken off the field by the referee and put into a velvet bag, in case it became part of history.

The equalizer, which saw Dia beat Victor Osimhen on the right wing before firing into the far corner, brought silence but it should only be a matter of days before Naples can celebrate properly and wipe away years of pain.

Naples was poised for an epic celebration today.

All the streets had been decorated. Blue-and-white flags were hung outside every balcony. Life-size cut-outs of the players had been installed in the city center.

All day long, this felt like one big street party. People have been singing, dancing – even crying. Children played football in the streets. Fireworks could be heard when Inter beat Lazio.

Fans gathered by the iconic mural of Diego Maradona in the city centre from early morning. Many were not just confident, but certain Napoli would become champions on Sunday.

“It’s practically done, it’s just a matter of time,” said Federico – who was dressed head to toe in Napoli attire. “We deserve this win.”

Naples is a city that lives and breathes football. It is almost a religious experience.

The memories of Napoli winning the title in 1990 with Maradona as captain are starting to fade away – and Neapolitans remain desperate to see glory finally return to this city.

Salernitana’s late equaliser means their wait for the title continues – but they will surely not have to wait much longer.


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