Napoli beats Sassuolo 3-1 to move 3 points clear in Serie A
MILAN (AP) — Napoli reinforced its title credentials by beating Sassuolo 3-1 to move three points clear in Serie A on Sunday.
Goals from Allan, Jose Callejon and Dries Mertens helped Napoli to its 10th win in 11 matches. Diego Falcinelli had leveled for Sassuolo and both sides hit the woodwork twice.
Juventus and Lazio, which earlier won 5-1 at Benevento, are tied for second. Inter Milan is two points further back and visits Hellas Verona on Monday.
Juventus beat AC Milan 2-0 Saturday.
Napoli struggled in the opening stages but took control of the match and even had the luxury of substituting three of its key players ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League match at home to Manchester City.
“It’s too early to talk about the title, at the moment the only thing to think about is Wednesday’s match against City,” Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri said. “We know it will be tough even if we believe we can do it and have a great game.”
Sarri had only one win over Sassuolo as Napoli coach, having drawn both matches last season and lost on his debut in August 2015.
Sassuolo almost took an early lead as Stefano Sensi fired a free kick off the crossbar from a tight angle.
Sensi was at fault for the opening goal in the 22nd minute as he gave away the ball on the edge of his penalty area and Allan pounced to fire it past Andrea Consigli.
Napoli almost doubled its lead minutes later but Faouzi Ghoulam’s volley came off the left post.
Sassuolo leveled four minutes from halftime when Falcinelli headed in Matteo Politano’s cross from the right at the near post.
However, Napoli restored its advantage in unusual fashion just before halftime as Callejon’s corner from the left squirmed in past Consigli.
Mertens has started this season the way he ended his last, netting his 10th league goal of the campaign nine minutes into the second half. Raul Albiol headed a cross back across goal for the Belgium international to tap in.
Sassuolo has not scored more than one goal in any league match this season but thought it had a penalty shortly after the hour. The referee changed his decision after video review revealed Vlad Chiriches’s foul on Falcinelli had been just outside the area.
The visitors hit the woodwork for the second time moments later when Francesco Cassata’s header came off the left post.
Napoli almost got another goal late on but Piotr Zielinski’s effort hit both posts before landing in the arms of Consigli.
Ciro Immobile turned from goal scorer to provider as he weighed in with three assists as well as a goal in Lazio’s convincing victory.
Immobile set up Bastos and Adam Marusic in the first half, either side of his 14th league goal of the season — moving him three clear of Inter’s Mauro Icardi and Juventus forward Paulo Dybala in the scoring charts.
Achraf Lazaar reduced the deficit shortly after the break but Simone Inzaghi brought on Luis Nani in the 70th and the former Manchester United midfielder had an immediate impact, setting up Marco Parolo before scoring his first Lazio goal after another assist from Immobile.
Promoted side Benevento has lost all 11 of its Serie A matches this season.
Two goals in as many minutes helped Crotone to a surprise 2-1 victory over Fiorentina.
Ante Budimir netted his first Serie A goal in the 17th, thanks to a cross from Marcello Trotta, who got on the scoresheet himself two minutes later.
Marco Benassi got Fiorentina back into the match just before halftime and Federico Chiesa hit the crossbar but Crotone survived a late siege to take a valuable win and move three points above the drop zone.
Spal is also out of the bottom three as it ended a run of three successive defeats with a 1-0 win over Genoa to leapfrog its opponent in the table.
Atalanta had a late penalty saved in a 2-1 defeat at Udinese.
Also, Lucas Torreira scored two spectacular goals in a 4-1 victory over Chievo Verona.
Torino beat Cagliari 2-1 in Sunday’s late game.
More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA