Napoli defeated AC Milan 1-0 at San Siro on Sunday to climb to second in Serie A above their opponents, with VAR taking centre stage in a dramatic finale.
The midfielder Eljif Elmas glanced a header home at the near post from a corner to stun the hosts and edge the visitors in front in the fifth minute, a lead Napoli held without being overly troubled until the latter stages.
Veteran Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic looked most likely to find an equaliser after going close midway through the first half and just after the break. In the 90th minute, just as Milan looked out of ideas, Franck Kessie appeared to have snatched the hosts a point out of nowhere, sparking wild scenes of celebration, only for VAR to rule the effort out for offside.
Milan were furious with the tight call made by the officials, as Napoli held on for a first win in four league games to move on to 39 points, the same as Milan, and above Stefano Pioli’s team on goal difference.
Both Milan and Napoli went unbeaten in their opening 12 league games of the season, but the pair’s indifferent form since has opened the door for Inter Milan, who are now assured to be ‘winter champions’ in Italy as they are top by four points with one match to come before the Christmas break.
Kessie’s effort was scrappy, but Milan did not care one bit, with Pioli even running over to join in the celebrations. The referee Davide Massa was asked by the video assistant referee to have another look at the goal on the pitchside monitor, and ruled that substitute Olivier Giroud, who was on the ground, had been offside.
In Spain, Real Madrid’s 10-game winning run in all competitions ended with a 0-0 draw at home to lowly Cadiz.
It was a gutsy performance by the southern club as they survived a second half in which the La Liga leaders bombarded Jeremias Ledesma’s goal. Real are now six points clear of second-placed Sevilla, who beat Atlético Madrid 2-1 on Saturday and have a game in hand, and 10 in front of Real Betis, who lost at Athletic Bilbao.
Barcelona, who won 3-2 at home to Elche on Saturday, are seventh, 16 points behind their fierce rivals. With Real missing six players due to a Covid-19 outbreak at the club, all eyes were on Eden Hazard, who was making his first start since September against second-bottom side Cadiz. After a poor first half, the Belgium international got into his stride after half-time but Real did not do enough to break the deadlock.
In Germany, the substitute Kevin Schade scored late as Freiburg beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 on Sunday to leapfrog the visitors and move into third place ahead of the Bundesliga’s winter break, while Anthony Modeste scored a late goal to give Cologne a 1-0 win over Stuttgart.
Before the game, Cologne on Twitter thanked third-division clubs MSV Duisburg and VfL Osnabrück for their “clear reaction” to a racist incident on Sunday which targeted visiting forward Aaron Opoku. Osnabrück declined to play on and Duisburg fans helped to identify the alleged culprit. Cologne’s tweet featured a picture of Modeste applauding. Modeste has himself previously campaigned against racism.