By Mukwuzi Joseph
Inter have blown the Scudetto race wide open by fighting back to beat leaders Napoli in a 3-2 thriller with spectacular goals, a Victor Osimhen injury and amazing stoppage-time Samir Handanovic save.
This was already third against first, but became even more important after Milan suffered their first defeat of the Serie A season with a 4-3 trip to Fiorentina. Stefan de Vrij and Alexis Sanchez were injured, with Edin Dzeko not fully fit, while the Partenopei missed Matteo Politano, Diego Demme and Alessandro Zanoli with COVID-19, plus Adam Ounas and Kostas Manolas.
It was the first return to San Siro as an opponent for Luciano Spalletti, who was sacked by Inter just over two years ago despite taking them back into the Champions League.
Lautaro Martinez nodded over the bar and Matteo Darmian drilled wide, but Napoli took the lead with a well-worked goal on the counter.
Piotr Zielinski started and finished the move, winning it back off Nicolò Barella to spark the counter, then Lorenzo Insigne rolled it across for Zielinski to hit it first time into the roof of the net from the D with his right boot.
Milan Skriniar only grazed his forehead to a Hakan Calhanoglu free kick, but Inter received a penalty when Kalidou Koulibaly charged down the Barella volley with a raised arm. Calhanoglu stepped up and, after his effort in the derby, converted another spot-kick to equalise.
It was wide open, Osimhen’s strike charged down by Skriniar and Lautaro Martinez turning wide, while Osimhen’s header was off target and Barella stung David Ospina’s gloves.
Inter turned the game around completely just before half-time, as Calhanoglu’s in-swinging corner got a touch on Ivan Perisic’s head and surprised Ospina, who only clawed the ball away after it had crossed the line.
After the restart, Ospina was again called to make a fine save on Lautaro Martinez, then Skriniar had to practically clear Hirving Lozano’s angled drive off the line.
Napoli lost top scorer Osimhen to what looked like a potentially fractured cheekbone, as his face was badly swollen after a nasty clash of heads with Skriniar.
Inter extended their lead with a classic counter-attack, sparked by Tucu Correa on the edge of his own penalty area. He ran the length of the pitch, waited for the right moment and released the pass for Lautaro Martinez to spring the offside trap, placing an angled drive into the far bottom corner.
Perisic tested Ospina again, but suddenly substitute Dries Mertens got Napoli back into it with a goal out of nowhere. Edin Dzeko was caught in possession and the Belgian unleashed a spectacular strike from distance that dipped viciously under the crossbar. It was his 103rd Serie A goal, making him the sole all-time top scorer in this division for Napoli.
There was another clash of heads between Dzeko and Ospina, then Mertens threatened 3-3, his first touch letting him down, while Dzeko couldn’t tap in the Perisic pull-back.
There were eight minutes of stoppages due to the two clashes of heads and there was an astonishing opportunity for Napoli. Mario Rui nodded his header into the ground at the back post, Handanovic somehow managed to palm it up just enough for it to bounce off the crossbar and over.
Mertens had another incredible chance to win it at the 97th minute, as Anguissa’s cross found him unmarked at the back post, but the Belgian blazed a volley over the bar.