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Balotelli sheds a tear as Milan crash in Naples while Juve stutter and Roma miss Derby opportunity

Tuesday 11th February 2014
Rafael Benitez and his Napoli side were the big winners of week 23 in Serie A, as their 3-1 victory over Milan at Stadio San Paolo cemented third place for them in the race for Champions League football, while closest rivals for the position Fiorentina won 2-0 at home to Atalanta to remain three points behind il Partenopei. Roma were unable to close the gap on league leaders Juventus, who could only draw 2-2 at high flying Verona, as they were held 0-0 by Lazio in the Derby della Capitale. While a Walter Samuel header meant Inter went under the radar to earn a first league win of 2014 to heap more misery on Sassuolo at the San Siro.

Mario Balotelli crying in the dugout after being substituted in the second half of the Rossoneri's defeat in Naples will probably be the most memorable image of this game in years to come, but perhaps the more worrying issue in hand for Clarence Seedorf and his charges is that the Dutchman's honeymoon period at the helm of his beloved Milan was extremely short lived. Although new loan signing Adel Taraabt scored a wonderful solo goal to give the visitors the lead inside ten minutes, parity was restored just four minutes later when a deflected Gokhan Inler effort found its way into the corner of the net. A Gonzalo Higuain double then wrapped up the points, leaving Seedorf scratching his head, the Rossoneri in the bottom half and Balotelli beside himself. Questions as to why the Italian striker had to dry his eyes circled, and after rumours of racial abuse were denied, it was said that the emotional former Inter man was upset at not being able to score a goal in dedication to the baby he had fathered to former girlfriend Raffaella Fico, born in Naples recently.

This result will have come as a relief to Benitez, whose side's recent poor form had knocked them out of the title race and made them vulnerable in the race for third. In fact, a victory for Vincenzo Montella's Fiorentina temporarily put them level on points in the race for Champions League football. La Viola have been extremely unlucky with injuries this season, with their front line of Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Gomez both suffering long injury lay offs at different times this season. While Rossi may be sweating over his World Cup place, Germany striker Gomez has recently returned to the fold. A Josip Ilic goal was added to late on by substitute Rafal Wolski's first Serie A goal as Atalanta's misery was compounded as Luca Cigarini was sent off with nine minutes remaining.

Antonio Conte's Juventus headed to the Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi looking to go 12 points clear at the top before the Rome Derby kicked off, against Verona. It looked routine as Carlos Tevez put La Signora 2-0 up inside 25 minutes, but Verona have defied the odds this season, and have already put Milan to the sword at home. Former Juve striker Luca Toni halved the deficit before Juanito Gomez Taleb headed in a Romulo cross to earn the side in fifth at kick off a point. Conte handed Dani Osvaldo, on loan from Southampton his debut a nine minute cameo, but his impact wasn't immediate and he was powerless to stop the comeback.

This gave Roma the opportunity to close the gap to six points with a game in hand as they faced Lazio in the Derby della Capitale at the Stadio Olimpico, but a goalless draw against the enemy left the Giallorossi frustrated. A disallowed goal from Gervinho had them believing the points were theirs but Edoardo Reja's men came away with a point, a fantastic result when you consider Roma's form under Rudi Garcia this campaign. Meanwhile, Inter stopped the rot with a victory over relegation battling Sassuolo at the San Siro. Walter Mazzarri was under pressure at kick off as his side hadn't won since their derby victory just before Christmas, and had recently been given the dreaded vote of confidence by new owner Erick Thohir, but he'd have been relieved to see Walter Samuel's header earn the points against a Sassuolo side that rivals Milan know all about.

Elsewhere, a victory over Cheivo pulled Udinese away from a possible relegation battle, a Alessandro Diamanti-less Bologna pulled off a 2-1 victory over Torino at the Olympic Stadium, and Sampdoria followed up thei Derby della Lanterna victory over Genoa by beating Cagliari 1-0. While Genoa themselves bounced back with a 1-0 victory at Livorno and a 0-0 draw between for Catania at Parma leaves the visited rooted to the bottom of the table.
Harry De Cosemo
19 years old, Newcastle season ticket holder. European football enthusiast and aspiring football writer. Currently doing a Journalism degree at Teesside University. You can follow me on Twitter: @harrydecosemo

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