High-flying Napoli reinforced their bid for a first Scudetto title since the days of Diego Maradona with a morale-boosting 3-1 win against Atalanta, who failed to make it four H2H victories in a row against their southern opponents.
Having witnessed their top-four spot being taken by Juventus in recent weeks, a positive result was a ‘must’ for Atalanta. The ‘Nerazzurri’ unsettled the visitors from the very outset, with Ruslan Malinovskyi’s early header was parried away brilliantly by Napoli shot-stopper David Ospina.
Atalanta didn’t lose their momentum though, coming close via Remo Freuler’s low drive that zoomed past Ospina’s left post midway through the half. However, that effort proved to be the last of Atalanta’s advances in the first period, as they went 2-0 down eight minutes before HT. Insigne’s accurate free-kick delivery handed Matteo Politano a goal on a platter, as he made no mistake from point-blank range to put Napoli in the driving seat.
Jeremie Boga’s introduction after the break allowed Atalanta to operate with freedom up front, and it didn’t take long before the home side pulled one back, courtesy of Marten de Roon’s superb header right on the hour mark. Knowing very well that conceding another would mar their title challenge, the ‘Partenopei’ held strong despite Atalanta’s approaches in the final-third.
The final quarter-hour began with substitute Boga launching a scathing shot at Ospina, who superbly nicked the ball just off the crossbar to keep Napoli safe. The game was effectively put to bed by ‘Partenopei’ midfielder Eljif Elmas 10 minutes before FT, when he calmly slotted his side’s third of the evening low into Juan Musso’s net.
The away victory places the Naples side on par with league-leaders AC Milan with 66 points, despite having played an extra game. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side could not extend their unbeaten run to five matches, thereby failing to take advantage of Lazio’s recent slip-ups. Nevertheless, they still have the chance to make the top six, if not the top four come the end of the campaign.