MILAN (AP) Arkadiusz Milik scored his first goal since his lengthy injury layoff but it wasn’t enough to prevent Napoli from drawing 2-2 at Sassuolo on Sunday and missing the chance to move second in Serie A.
Milik scored two minutes after coming off the bench to rescue a point for Napoli and move it to within one point of second-placed Roma, which visits bottom club Pescara on Monday.
Second spot in Serie A secures automatic entry into the Champions League group stage, while the team that finishes third has to go through a playoff.
“The road to second spot has got more difficult, we have to hope our rivals slip up,” Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri said. “We have a point more than last season, even though we played in the Champions League, even though we lost (Gonzalo) Higuain at the beginning of the season and Milik for four months, so I think the team has had an extraordinary season until now.”
After an even first half, Napoli broke the deadlock seven minutes after the break thanks to a rare header from Dries Mertens. It was the diminutive Belgian’s 22nd league goal of the season – as many as he had scored in total in his three previous seasons at Napoli.
However, Napoli gifted Sassuolo the equalizer seven minutes later as Marek Hamsik’s terrible headed backpass to Pepe Reina was intercepted by Domenico Berardi, who fired home from close range.
Mertens almost immediately restored his side’s lead but saw his free kick come off the crossbar, while Lorenzo Insigne’s effort also hit the inside of the post for Napoli.
Sassuolo took the lead 10 minutes from time following a superb save from Reina to deny former Napoli hero Paolo Cannavaro, but Antonino Ragusa hooked the ball back in from the byline for Luca Mazzitelli to drive into the bottom right corner.
Milik was brought on in the 82nd and immediately leveled. Jose Callejon’s corner was knocked down by Raul Albiol and the Poland international spun to fire in from close range for his first goal since he was injured on World Cup duty in October.
AC Milan missed a penalty as the new era at the famous Italian club continued without a win.
Milan drew 2-2 at city rival Inter Milan last weekend in the first match since the $800 million takeover of Milan by Chinese-led Rossoneri Sport Luxembourg ended Silvio Berlusconi’s 31-year reign.
Sunday’s defeat saw Milan remain in the last qualifying spot for the Europa League, two points above Inter.
“If we relate everything to the result, it didn’t go well but I shouldn’t do that,” Milan coach Vincenzo Montella said. “We created 15 chances, it’s difficult to create more in Serie A.”
Empoli took a surprise lead five minutes from halftime when Levan Mchedlidze headed in a corner.
Milan should have leveled shortly before the hour, after Lukasz Skorupski pushed over Mario Pasalic, but the Empoli goalkeeper made up for his error by keeping out Suso’s penalty and then parrying a follow-up effort from Gianluca Lapadula.
Empoli doubled its lead in the 67th when Massimo Maccarone nodded on the ball for Mame Thiam to score his first goal in Italian football.
Lapadula reduced the deficit five minutes later, curling into the bottom corner and Milan had a good chance to level when it was awarded an indirect free kick six yards out from goal after Skorupski got the ball, put it down and picked it back up again.
However, with all the Empoli players on the line, Milan couldn’t equalize.
Milan’s teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma kept his side in the match with a fantastic one-handed save to deny Maccarone and it almost proved decisive as Lucas Ocampos volleyed off the crossbar at the other end.
Keita Balde Diao notched a five-minute hat trick as Lazio crushed Palermo to move back into fourth in Serie A.
Ciro Immobile scored two in as many minutes to put Lazio 2-0 up inside 10 minutes, before Keita’s quickfire treble – including a penalty – ensured the match was all but over with less than half an hour played.
Lazio relaxed and Palermo threatened an unexpected comeback with two goals from Andrea Rispoli in five minutes at the start of the second half.
But Luca Crecco extended Lazio’s lead in the final minute with his first ever senior goal.
Juventus continued its march to an unprecedented sixth successive Serie A title by routing Genoa 4-0 to move 11 points clear of Roma.
Ezequiel Munoz scored an own-goal in the 17th and magnificent strikes from Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic put the hosts 3-0 up at the break. Leonardo Bonucci scored another stunning goal in the 64th after sprinting forward from inside his own half. Juventus also hit the woodwork three times.
Crotone kept its faint hopes of survival alive with a surprise 2-1 win at Sampdoria.
The result left it five points behind 17th-placed Empoli and safety with five matches remaining.
Elsewhere, Torino won 3-1 at Chievo Verona, while Udinese beat Cagliari 2-1.