Napoli vs Salernitana 1-1: Dia Forces to Postpone Scudetto Party

Sometimes, things don’t go according to plans. Salernitana spoiled Napoli’s perfect day as they held Luciano Spalletti and co. to a 1-1 tie at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.

It should have been a Sunday of celebration for the Partenopei after Inter beat Lazio earlier in the day. The Nerazzurri‘s win offered Napoli the chance to be crowned Italian champions today, if they made a full score against Paulo Sousa’s boys. Instead, it ended like in a dull corporate office afternoon, with Napoli forced to reschedule their Scudetto party.

The Maradona Stadium exploded at  4.21 PM as a header from perhaps one of the most unexpected match winners, Mathias Olivera, sent Napoli and Naples into raptures after the Granata sturdy wall had held for 62 minutes.

But celebrations were suddenly called off when Boulaye Dia drove the ball into the top right corner past Alex Meret with a videogame-ish screamer, extending Salernitana’s non-losing streak to nine games and winning his side a key point on their way to preserve their top-flight status for the second season in a row.

Napoli’s third Serie A title is obviously not at risk as they now need just one point to be crowned Italian champions. Their next match point is on Thursday as they travel to Udine to face Udinese. But surely they were hoping for a different outcome today as they braced to celebrate their title victory on home soil.

The Maradona was a gigantic blue basin bracing for a miracle as the whole city waited for the official certification of that title they were waiting since 1990. But Paulo Sousa’s Salernitana could not afford the luxury of acting like a sparring partner as they also needed points to keep staying away from the drop zone.

As soon as referee Matteo Mercenaro blew for kick off, the match started following the expected pattern, with the Azzurri furiously attacking and the Granata parking the bus in an attempt to salvage at least one point.

It took all of Guillermo Ochoa’s experience to keep the score unchanged until half time. The Mexican shot-stopper defused an Osimhen header on 23 minutes and pushed back a tricky conclusion from Frank Zambo Anguissa to frustrate Napoli’s hopes of wrapping an easy win and kicking off the celebration. The Partenopei‘s ball possession peaked at 90% at times but the visitors’ defense was never caught off guard.

Napoli broke the deadlock on 62 minutes, right when they were starting to feel that their perfect day might have a different outcome than expected. Olivera’s header from a Giacomo Raspadori corner left no chance to Ochoa this time, turning the San Paolo into a steamy pressure cooker.

However, Salernitana were not done yet. They might have given up if Elif Elmas and Kvaratskhelia’s shots ended just a few inches closer to the post, but failing to add a second one prevented Napoli from getting the game done and dusted.

And so, the Azzurri were punished when Salernitana came up with their first real shot on target of the day. Dia dashed past Osimhen and fired a deadly left-foot screamer from the edge of the box. Meret could only watch the ball roll into the back of the net and pass it back to their teammates for the final assault.

There were still six minutes left but Dia’s exploit broke Napoli’s momentum. Still, Ochoa had some more work to do to keep the score at 1-1. At full time, the Maradona Stadium still applauded their heroes. Their triumph will need to wait just a few more days.