Free-scoring Napoli crush Lazio 4-1, go back top of Serie A
MILAN (AP) — Not content with moving back to the top of Serie A, Napoli also boosted its credentials as Italy’s most entertaining team by crushing third-placed Lazio 4-1 on Saturday.
Napoli recovered from an early goal down to level at the end of the first half and then blew Lazio away.
Maurizio Sarri’s team moved back to a point above six-time defending champion Juventus, which won at Fiorentina 2-0 on Friday.
Napoli walked out onto the pitch wearing shirts with the name and number of teammate Faouzi Ghoulam, who — having been out since November with an ACL injury — faces another month at least on the sidelines after needing a knee operation this week.
“This victory is dedicated to Ghoulam,” Napoli goalscorer Jose Callejon said. “This team is a family, we’re all working for a dream that we have in our heads.
“We had a great game, playing with our hearts and legs right until the end. It’s from the first day of preseason that we’ve been working for the title.”
Lazio remained third after its third successive league defeat, seven points behind Napoli, and could be overtaken by Inter Milan and Roma on Sunday.
Earlier, AC Milan beat relegation-threatened Spal 4-0, and Atalanta drew at Crotone 1-1.
Lazio got off to the perfect start as Stefan de Vrij stuck out a foot to prod Ciro Immobile’s cross past Pepe Reina and give his side a third-minute lead.
De Vrij also opened the scoring when Lazio lost to Napoli 4-1 earlier in the season.
Napoli leveled in the final minute of the half when Callejon brought down a long free kick from Jorginho and fired it into the bottom left corner.
Napoli dominated after the break and took the lead after Lazio defender Wallace turned Callejon’s cross into his own net.
Mario Rui increased Napoli’s advantage moments later, with an effort deflected in by teammate Piotr Zielinski.
Zielinski also had a hand in Napoli’s fourth, bamboozling two defenders, before unleashing a shot which Dries Mertens finished off. It was Mertens’ 15th league goal and his fifth in his past four matches.
Sarri marked his 100th Serie A game in charge of Napoli by being sent off at the end of the first half for dissent. His record stands at 71 wins, 18 draws and 11 defeats, scoring 228 goals and conceding 86.
Patrick Cutrone boosted his claims to be a regular starter with two goals, and Lucas Biglia and substitute Fabio Borini notched their first league goals for Milan.
Handed his eighth league start this season, the 20-year-old Cutrone scored less than two minutes in. Spal goalkeeper Alex Meret parried Alessio Romagnoli’s header but Cutrone tucked the rebound into the bottom right corner.
Cutrone doubled his and Milan’s tally in the 65th. Cutrone’s initial shot on the follow-up came off the left post but he managed to send it in at the second attempt.
Biglia scored from a Spal error, and Borini scored in the last minute.
The Rossoneri are showing signs of improvement under Gennaro Gattuso and their biggest win of the season will boost confidence ahead of next week’s match at Sampdoria, with both teams chasing a Europa League spot.
NO GREAT ESCAPE
Crotone pulled off the great escape last season, avoiding relegation on the final day.
This year it is doing its best to ensure it is safe before May. It almost shocked Atalanta when it scored with 10 minutes remaining. However, Atalanta leveled eight minutes later.
Crotone inched four points clear of 18th-placed Spal and the relegation zone.
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