HT: Napoli struggle to keep Icardi out

Mauro Icardi hit the crossbar from kick-off and saw a shot cleared off the line by Kalidou Koulibaly, but Napoli are hanging on with Inter at half-time.

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This was a huge battle between third and second, with eight points dividing them going into this Boxing Day showdown. The Nerazzurri had fallen behind after a draw with bottom of the table Chievo and suspended Radja Nainggolan for turning up late to training several times, also fining him €100,000. Arkadiusz Milik was chosen ahead of Dries Mertens to partner Lorenzo Insigne, with Allan returning after a back problem. Jose Callejon was used in a bizarre new right-back role.

Napoli had lost only one of their last seven Serie A trips to Inter, winning two and drawing three. They’d also been beaten just once in their last 11 league meetings with the Nerazzurri, home and away, with five wins and as many stalemates.

On the other hand, Inter were coming off six consecutive Serie A home wins with five clean sheets in a row.

Mauro Icardi almost scored the goal of the decade, as he saw Alex Meret off his line and went for it from the kick-off, denied only by the crossbar.

Callejon had to make a crucial block at the by-line as another inspired Icardi through ball split the defence, then Matteo Politano’s left-foot volley sailed over.

Inter’s pressing game was ferocious, but Samir Handanovic needed to be alert on a Lorenzo Insigne curler that bounced right in front of him.

Marek Hamsik pulled up with a suspected thigh strain and made way for Nikola Maksimovic, returning Callejon to his usual role.

Marcelo Brozovic was booked for a lunge on Arkadiusz Milik and will be suspended against Empoli. Ivan Perisic had the ball in the net with a spectacular volley from a tight angle, but he was offside when the Joao Mario shot was deflected into his path.

Joao Mario’s header was straight at Meret from a Politano cross, but Icardi managed to squirm away from two defenders, get around Meret and prod with the other boot, only for Kalidou Koulibaly to perform a decisive goal-line clearance.

On the stroke of half-time, Joao Mario drilled wide of the near post at the end of a well-worked team move.

Inter 0-0 Napoli (Half-Time)

Inter: Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, De Vrij, Skriniar, Asamoah; Borja Valero, Brozovic, Joao Mario; Politano, Icardi, Perisic

Napoli: Meret; Callejon, Albiol, Koulibaly, Mario Rui; Fabian Ruiz, Allan, Hamsik (Maksimovic 24), Zielinski; Insigne, Milik

Ref: Mazzoleni

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