Luciano Spalletti hits back at critics as Napoli hits the summit

Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti hailed the character of his players after a last-gasp 2-1 win away Lazio sent his side top of the Serie A table.

The Partenopei came into the match having been dumped out of the Europa League on Thursday night at the hands of Barcelona. They had drawn consecutive Serie A matches but dropped points for the two Milan giants meant a win would take Napoli top. After Lorenzo Insigne opened the scoring after 62 mins, an 88th minute Pedro wondergoal seemed to have rescue a point for Lazio. However, Fabian Ruiz netted deep into injury time to seal the three points and spark wild scenes in the away end.

Spalletti told DAZN in his post-match interview: “The team played good football in the second half, and it’s true that Pedro’s wondergoal got Lazio on level terms, but we had numerous chances before that, the goal that was disallowed and the one that was cleared off the line.

“I think overall the team deserved the victory. I want to underline that everyone keeps moaning that this team doesn’t have character, it’s soft, it’s sluggish, I want to hear them say that now.

“This team definitely has character. People said we couldn’t draw with Cagliari, but they went to beat Torino away from home today. We lost to Barcelona after getting a result at Camp Nou. It was my fault because I told them to take that approach.

“This is not the same Lazio that we beat earlier this season, because they play good football. They work together to press and attack you, so we were wide awake.”

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Spalletti talks match-winner and title chances

After the last-gasp victory in Roma, Luciano Spalletti discussed his decision to leave match-winner Fabian Ruiz on the pitch.

“People say take Fabian off, take him off, take him off: I leave him on and he scores!” said the coach. “This is a team challenging for a high level of the table, that has generally played good football. I don’t know what people try to drag us into. Perhaps because they are afraid to face opponents like this with open football. But my players are not afraid.

“We got knocked down, we got straight back on our feet again and poured forward to find the winner. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to say this was a deserved victory.

Commenting on whether it is more difficult to win in cities like Naples, the experienced Mister responded: “It depends. We have a good team, but this idea that if we don’t win the Scudetto then we’ve failed is unfair. There is a middle ground. The team is doing what it needs to do.

“We are ahead of teams that are on our level, while others have even more resources than we do. We had players at the Africa Cup of Nations, we had players who were injured. You could see we were struggling and couldn’t really rotate or choose from one game to the next.”

Napoli host AC Milan on Sunday night in a top of the table affair that will go a long way to deciding the Serie A title.

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