Soccer-Eriksen earns Serie A leaders Inter point at Napoli

Soccer Football - Serie A - Napoli v Inter Milan - Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, Naples, Italy - April 18, 2021 Inter Milan's Christian Eriksen celebrates scoring their first goal with teammate REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

(Reuters) -Christian Eriksen's first league goal of the season earned Inter Milan a 1-1 draw at Napoli on Sunday, moving the league leaders nine points clear at the top of the Serie A standings.

In a thrilling first half, Inter hit the woodwork twice but found themselves behind as goalkeeper Samir Handanovic diverted what appeared to be a comfortable low cross into his own net nine minutes before the break.

Inter, chasing a 12th successive league win, stepped it up a gear in the second half, with Dane Eriksen arrowing a fine strike into the net in the 55th minute.

Napoli hit the crossbar and thought they had won a late penalty only for VAR to overturn the decision, as Inter hung on to move on to 75 points from 31 games, nine clear of second-placed AC Milan.

"On other occasions we would have lost the game, we would have fallen after that goal we conceded," Inter coach Antonio Conte told Sky Sport Italia.

"Instead the team reacted, they are there, they know their means and never lose their way. We faced a complete Napoli, a team that I considered among the best equipped to win the Scudetto.

"Today we gave Milan two points in their chase, but I think we can allow for this as it was a hard-earned draw."

Gennaro Gattuso's Napoli stayed fifth, but closed to within two points of champions Juventus in fourth.

With AC Milan earning a narrow 2-1 win over Genoa earlier on Sunday, Inter's lead at the top had been cut to eight points as they faced a real test against a Napoli side who had won five of their last six league games.

Conte's team had chances to take the lead in the opening period, but Romelu Lukaku could only divert the ball onto the crossbar from close range, before Eriksen's deflected freekick came out off the upright.

Napoli then edged in front, and it was a real mess from Handanovic, as he let Lorenzo Insigne's cross squirm from his hands and back into his own goal.

After Eriksen had arrived right on cue to break his Serie A season duck, Inter settled in for a point, knowing every one earned would take them a step closer to a first Scudetto in 11 years.

But they rode their luck as Diego Demme thundered a strike onto the underside of the crossbar, before the referee elected to change his original decision to penalise Stefan de Vrij for a foul in the penalty area.

(Reporting by Peter HallEditing by Christian Radnedge)

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