League leader Napoli held by Verona ahead of Milan derby

Napoli's Dries Mertens controls the ball, during the Italian Serie A soccer match between Napoli and Verona at the Diego Armando Maradona stadium in Naples, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. Napoli players wore shirts with the image of Argentine soccer player Diego Maradona - in honour of him, nearly a year after his death. (Alessandro Garofalo/LaPresse via AP)

MILAN -- AC Milan was held to a 1-1 draw in a fiercely contested derby match against defending champion Inter Milan on Sunday and missed the chance to take the outright lead of Serie A.

Former Milan midfielder Hakan Çalhanoğlu converted a penalty for Inter in the 11th minute -- and celebrated fiercely against the club he left in June on a free transfer after four years. Milan leveled thanks to an own-goal by defender Stefan de Vrij shortly after, and Inter also had a penalty saved in a high-tempo first half.

Stefano Pioli's Milan remained level on points at the top of the Italian league with Napoli, which drew 1-1 against Hellas Verona earlier. Inter was third, seven points below the top two.

Milan was looking to make a statement of intent -- by moving 10 points clear of defending champion Inter -- but had a number of players out injured and Theo Hernandez suspended. And it got off to the worst possible start as Franck Kessie tangled with Çalhanoğlu to concede a penalty.

Çalhanoğlu fired the spot kick straight down the middle and then ran to the nearby corner to celebrate in front of the Milan ultras. After getting loudly jeered by fans, he put his hands up to his ears.

Inter's lead lasted just six minutes before defender De Vrij headed Sandro Tonali's free kick into his own net. Fikayo Tomori celebrated as if he had scored and the stadium announcer gave out the player's name but it was eventually awarded as an own-goal.

Inter was given a second penalty in the 27th after a bad mistake from Fode Ballo-Toure saw him bring down Matteo Darmian. This time Lautaro Martinez stepped up but Ciprian Tătăruşanu naged to save his spot kick.

Ballo-Toure made up for his mistake in the final minute of the half, clearing off the line from an unmarked Nicol? Barella.

Inter had the better opportunities in the first half and so it continued after the break, although Zlatan Ibrahimovi? almost won the match for Milan. The 40-year-old Swede had done little all game before curling the ball just past the top far corner and he also had a fierce free kick parried by Samir Handanovi?.

Milan almost snatched all three points right at the death but Alexis Saelemaekers' shot from distance cannoned off the left post and Kessie fired the rebound just past the right post.


Verona ended the match in Naples with nine men after substitutes Daniel Bessa and Nikola Kalini? were sent off in separate incidents late on.

Giovanni Simeone had scored his seventh goal in four matches to give Verona an early lead but that only lasted five minutes before Giovanni Di Lorenzo's equalizer.

Napoli hit the woodwork twice through Victor Osimhen and Dries Mertens.

Mertens' attempt came shortly after Bessa was sent off after receiving two yellow cards in eight minutes. Kalini? followed his teammate in stoppage time after also receiving two quick yellows.


Roma's misery continued as Jose Mourinho's side lost 3-2 at Venezia to leave it with just one win in its last seven matches in all competitions.

It was the first time Venezia had scored two goals in a match in its return to Serie A and lifted it three points above the drop zone.

Roma slipped to sixth after Lazio comfortably beat relegation-threatened Salernitana 3-0.

Bologna is just a point below Roma -- and level with Juventus and Fiorentina -- after winning 2-1 at Sampdoria. Udinese beat Sassuolo 3-2.

When submitting content, please abide by our  submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.
We use cookies to improve your experience. Learn More or change your cookie preferences. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies.