Matteo Politano’s tidy finish shortly after half-time handed Napoli a crucial 1-0 win over AC Milan to seriously damage the hosts’ Serie A title hopes.

With Inter beating Torino 2-1 earlier in the day, second-placed Milan needed to win against the Naples club to reduce the nine-point gap and stand any realistic chance of scooping up the Scudetto. But their narrow defeat to Gennaro Gattuso’s men has left the Rossoneri with a mountain to climb.

It’s a significant three points for Napoli in their pursuit of Champions League qualification. They leapfrog Roma into fifth and are now two points off Atalanta in fourth with a game in hand.

AC Milan’s Hakan Calhanoglu had the game’s first real chance in the tenth minute, but he curled his shot wide in a half where Napoli were the better side having enjoyed more possession and shots on goal.

Piotr Zielinski was at the centre of the visitors’ best chances. In the 16th minute the Poland international lost his balance as he toe-poked a shot at Gianluigi Donnarumma which the 22-year-old had to dive to his left to parry away.

Seven minutes later and Zielinski came close again. He tried to pick out the bottom corner with a low first-time effort, but the 26-year-old dragged his shot just wide of Donnarumma’s left post.

Politano fired Napoli in front shortly after the break to finish off a slick counter-attack. Zielinski played a perfectly weighted pass into the onrushing winger before he slotted the ball off his weaker right foot past Donnarumma into the bottom corner.

Napoli pushed for a second and Fabian Ruiz came close in the 58th minute, but his left-footed half-volley was pushed away by Donnarumma. Milan then responded with some good goalscoring opportunities.

Rafael Leao missed one of Milan’s best chances of the game in the 64th minute when he failed to maintain his composure from close-range by fluffing a floated cross from Ante Rebic towards the far post. That was before Rebic’s instinctive header 20 minutes from time forced David Ospina into a smart reflex save.

Milan had a penalty appeal shut down when Theo Hernandez went down in the box under a challenge from Tiémoué Bakayoko, but the referee said no penalty after a lengthy VAR delay.

Napoli defended resolutely to hold onto their slender lead, as Rebic saw red in injury-time for verbal abusing the referee, and sealed a win that could potentially decide this season’s Serie A title race.

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