Inter Milan put a stop to Napoli's so far impeccable title race by tieing down the home team to a disappointing 0-0 match.
The San Paolo fans tasted the bitterness of drawing for the first time this year, as Napoli's league record of 13 matches won in a row ended due to a tenacious Inter, who fought hard against the Serie A leaders.
The match itself does not mean any big change in the dynamics of the league table, as both teams have only one more point: Napoli still lead with 25 points, followed by the Milan side at 23, who Lazio and Juventus are shortly behind, will be looking to narrow the gap.
The home team undoubtedly dominated the first half of the game, with the lethal attacking trio made by Insigne, Callejon and Mertens threatening Inter’s goal on several occasions. The Nerazzuri managed to keep their nerves down and built up a few chances of their own by starting out from the back, but barely kept up with Napoli’s pace.
As the clock marked 20 minutes, Napoli had a double chance that was only saved by the heroics of Handanovic. Inter’s defence was caught off-guard when Callejon took the chance to curl the ball towards the goal, but the historic Nerazzurro goalkeeper was there to stop him. He was equally ready to save the ball once it bounced back on Mertens’ feet.
On the half-hour mark, Insigne went again dangerously close to breaking the deadlock, as he received a magnificent cross from Hamsik who lifted the ball that dropped on Insigne’s head. However, the striker’s header was not strong enough to break Handavnovic’s goal, who saved it easily.
Inter had their chance too. Towards the end of the first half, Perisic spotted Borja Valero alone on the right-hand side of the box, and served him a magnificent cross. He promptly thumped the ball straight to Reina’s goal, but Napoli’s stopper saved it and sent it above the bar.
The second half opened up with a different pace. Inter came back from the break with a more proactive mentality, and got the first chance. Profiting from a defence's disattention, Vecino danced alone in the box until he placed himself on the right side of the goal. His beautiful lob went inches from the goal line, but Albiol brilliantly headed it out before it was too late.
Napoli fought back again with the likes of Hamsik and Callejon, who exchanged the ball as they approached the box. The Slovak pounded the ball with strength, however he missed the goal by inches.
The rhythms were slightly lower during the ending 20 minutes, until Insigne almost caught Handanovic by surprise and shot from the edge of the box. The ball went past the bar.
Napoli could not accept not to win, and sieged Inter's box endlessly in the closing minutes. Newly entered Zielinksi put probably one of the biggest threats to the away team by thumping a stunner from the edge of the box. It would have been an amazing goal, had Handanovic intervened and pushed the ball away with an honourable safe.
Inter's keeper was the absolute best player of his side. He made over five extremely hard saves, securing the result for his boys. As the clock hit the 90-minute mark, he denied Mertens the joy to make his fans proud by bouncing back his marvellous shot.