MILAN — Napoli’s perfect start to Serie A finally came to an end on Saturday in an enthralling 0-0 home draw with Inter Milan, the only other unbeaten side in the Italian top flight.
There were plenty of chances at the San Paolo, and Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic was kept busier than his Napoli counterpart Pepe Reina.
“Handanovic is extraordinary, maybe the best goalkeeper in the world at the moment,” Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri said.
“I’m happy with what Napoli did: Having 75 percent of territorial domination without conceding much are signs that we had a good match. Looking at the chances it’s two points lost, but if we continue with these types of performances it will be difficult not to get the full points.”
It was the first time since April and a 2-2 draw at Sassuolo that Napoli has failed to win in Serie A.
Napoli remained top of the standings, two points above Inter and six above Juventus and Lazio, which face Udinese and Cagliari respectively on Sunday.
Napoli was looking for a ninth successive league win. It was boosted by Lorenzo Insigne passing fit to start after injuring a thigh on Tuesday in the Champions League defeat at Manchester City.
Inter was full of confidence after Mauro Icardi’s hat trick helped it win last week’s derby against AC Milan, but it hadn’t won in Naples in 20 years.
Napoli almost went in front but Handanovic pulled off a stunning double save to deny first Jose Callejon and then keep out Dries Mertens’ rebound attempt from point-blank range.
Handanovic then kept out an effort from Insigne following a great ball over the top from Marek Hamsik.
Inter went close shortly before halftime but Reina did well to fingertip Borja Valero’s close-range attempt over the bar. It went even closer after the break when Raul Albiol headed Matias Vecino’s flick off the line.
Mertens should have won the match for Napoli in the final minute but Handanovic was again on hand to keep out his close-range volley.
“Sometimes the Napoli players seem like aliens, for the things they do that are almost impossible, and playing against them isn’t easy,” Inter coach Luciano Spalletti said. “We still have so much to learn, but we have taken important steps forward.”
Sampdoria demolished Crotone 5-0 to sit two points behind Juventus and Lazio with a game in hand.
Former Crotone defender Gianmarco Ferrari didn’t celebrate after heading in Lucas Torreira’s cross to give Sampdoria the lead less than three minutes in.
Fabio Quagliarella doubled Samp’s lead from the spot after Arlind Ajeti dragged back Duvan Zapata by the jersey and Gianluca Caprari got a third before halftime.
Ante Budimir thought he’d pulled one back for Crotone on the stroke of halftime but his header bounced off the underside of the bar and did not cross the line.
Karol Linetty and Dawid Kownacki added to the scoreline after the break.
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