Mauro Icardi’s late penalty steals draw for Inter against Napoli

Inter Milan forward Mauro Icardi celebrates after scoring a game-tying penalty against Napoli.

CARLO HERMANN/AFP/Getty Images

Mauro Icardi denied Napoli the victory that would have seen them close to within two points of second-placed Roma in Serie A as his cheeky penalty earned Inter Milan a 2-2 draw.

There were no goals in a frantic first half at the Stadio San Paolo but they began to flow after half-time as Marek Hamsik and Gonzalo Higuain boosted Napoli into a two-goal lead.

Rodrigo Palacio halved the deficit with 20 minutes remaining and a rash late challenge from Henrique saw the Napoli defender dismissed, allowing Icardi to force the draw with a ‘Panenka’ spot-kick.

Rafael Benitez’s men are four points shy of Roma – held to a goalless draw by Chievo earlier on Sunday – while Inter join Torino in a share of eighth place.

It was a more than lively first half which failed to provide an opening goal despite its breakneck speed.

Chances were exchanged in the early minutes as Palacio tested Mariano Andujar before Higuain raced down the other end to shoot straight down Samir Handanovic’s throat.

The Inter goalkeeper had to keep his wits about him as Higuain back to drive Dries Mertens’ pass just wide before the Belgian fired in a daisy-cutter that Handanovic pushed out for a corner.

Napoli kept pushing and, in the 21st minute, Hamsik fed Higuain who, all alone in front of Handanovic, tried a clever soft finish but found the keeper’s feet.

The Nerazzurri responded by setting up Marcelo Brozovic in a pocket of space before the D – the Croatian took aim but just missed the crossbar.

Napoli enjoyed the best chance before the break as Mertens provided Higuain with a fantastic pass that the Argentinian improbably managed to waste from two yards out.

SERIE A RESULTS

Benitez’s men did not lose focus over half-time and notched six minutes after the restart.

Henrique provided the cross from the right and it was too simple for Hamsik to nod past Handanovic.

Inter tried to respond quickly but neither Icardi nor Danilo D’Ambrosio could turn decent chances home and, with everybody forward, Napoli caught them on the hop.

Higuain had struggled to find the target from inside the box but suddenly discovered perfect accuracy with a shot from 25 metres out that left Handanovic standing.

The visitors would not lie down and accept defeat, though.

Separate raids came to nothing but in the 72nd minute Palacio put the final touch to a flowing team move involving Davide Santon, Xherdan Shaqiri, Hernanes and Fredy Guarin.

Napoli seemed happy enough to defend their lead but their approach was overzealous and proved to be their undoing.

In grappling with Palacio in the box Henrique earned his second yellow card and his marching orders to concede a penalty, which Icardi dispatched in the form of a classy chip down the middle.