Napoli thrash Salernitana


Napoli kept pace with Serie A leaders Inter Milan after thrashing lowly local rivals Salernitana 4-1 on Sunday, their third league victory in a row.

The hosts started brightly and raced into a 17th-minute lead through Juan Jesus, the defender’s goal given after a VAR intervention, with the on-field referee having originally ruled it out for handball.

Against the run of play, with their only shot at goal in the match, Salernitana levelled through Federico Bonazzoli in the 33rd minute.

That was only a brief reprieve for the visitors from across the Gulf of Naples, however, as Dries Mertens put Napoli back in front from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time before Amir Rahmani tapped home four minutes after the break to make it 3-1.

Salernitana’s afternoon went from bad to worse moments later as Frederic Veseli was sent off for picking up a second yellow card when penalised for a handball in the penalty area.

Substitute Lorenzo Insigne scored from the spot to seal a comfortable victory for Napoli who climbed to second on 49 points, one clear of AC Milan, who play Juventus later on Sunday, and four adrift of leaders Inter.

Salernitana stayed rooted to the bottom of the standings on 10 points from 22 matches, eight points from safety.

“We need to improve in terms of ruthlessness and character, the matches with five substitutions are never easy even with a two-goal difference,” Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti told DAZN.

“I don’t feel tense about the results of others, ours are enough for me. I look at it in a way that there is always something to learn from these teams.”

Napoli’s poor form before the Serie A winter break – Spalletti’s men lost three of the four matches ahead of the Christmas holiday – had seen them fall behind the Scudetto frontrunners.

Since the return of the Italian top flight, however, they have found their form again, with Salernitana no match from start to finish in the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.

It was a landmark afternoon for Insigne, who will leave the club and head for Toronto FC in Canada at the end of the season, as he pulled level with Maradona as Napoli’s third all-time top goalscorer in all competitions.

Elsewhere in Serie A on Sunday, the 10 men of Fiorentina earned a 1-1 draw at Cagliari, while Sampdoria’s poor season continued as they slipped to a 1-0 loss at Spezia.

Atalanta held to goalless draw at Lazio

Atalanta opened the door for Juventus to climb into the Serie A top four after they were held to a 0-0 draw at Lazio on Saturday.

After a poor first half with few opportunities, Lazio’s Mattia Zaccagni thought he had broken the deadlock, only to see his fierce strike come out off the post just after the hour mark.

Lazio remained the only team who looked like breaking the deadlock, with Adam Marusic also going close as he skimmed the top of the crossbar with a curling effort late on.

The visitors, who created few clear-cut openings, saw out the draw that kept them fourth in the standings on 43 points from 22 games played, with Gian Piero Gasperini’s side two points clear of Juventus in fifth ahead of their trip to AC Milan on Sunday.

The point helped Lazio climb to sixth on 36 points from 23 matches, while they trail Atalanta by seven points.

Abraham double inspires Roma to victory at Empoli

AS Roma secured a 4-2 victory at Empoli in Serie A on Sunday thanks to four goals in 13 first-half minutes, including a double from English striker Tammy Abraham.

The hosts started brightly and created several early openings, but they fell apart after Abraham’s swift turn and shot broke the deadlock in the 24th minute.

Abraham squeezed the ball home in the 33rd minute from close range to double his side’s lead, before January signing Sergio Oliveira scored his second goal since joining on loan from Portuguese club Porto two minutes later to put Roma in command.

Jose Mourinho’s men were not done there, as they added another in the 37th minute, with Nicolo Zaniolo converting at the end of a swift counter-attack from the visitors.

In cruise control, Roma were given a fright in the second half as goals from Andrea Pinamonti and Nedim Bajrami put Empoli in with a chance of an improbable comeback, but Mourinho’s side held on for the three points.

The victory moved Roma up to sixth in the Serie A standings on 38 points from 23 matches, while Empoli dropped to 12th having taken 29 points from their 23 games.

AC Milan and Juventus draw

AC Milan were held to a 0-0 draw by Juventus at the San Siro on Sunday, as they dropped to third in Serie A, four points behind leaders Internazionale.

In the first half of a few chances, Milan were dealt a blow after veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic picked up an injury and had to be taken off.

While Juve were content to sit back, Milan looked the more likely to snatch victory, with Rafael Leao and Olivier Giroud forcing visiting goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny into several saves.

The hosts could not find a way through and had to settle for the draw that moved them onto 49 points from 23 games as Napoli, following their win over Salernitana earlier on Sunday, climbed above Milan into second on goal difference.

Juventus never looked like finding the net all match, but the hard-earned point stretched their unbeaten run to nine league games. They stay fifth on 42 points after 23 matches.

Victory would have moved Massimiliano Allegri’s side into the top four as they look to salvage their season after their disappointing first half of the campaign, but Juve remain one point behind Atalanta in fourth.

“Tonight was a good match,” Allegri told DAZN.

“It was important to end January in the best possible way. We faced a good Milan and staying at this distance from them is important.”

“I’m happy because the boys are playing more as a team. We must not lose team spirit. In this moment we have recovered many points, but it is one step at a time.”

Inter’s last-gasp victory over Venezia on Saturday put the pressure on their city rivals to keep pace, but Stefano Pioli’s side, chasing a first Scudetto since 2010-11, fell further behind in the title race.

“We missed something in the penalty area,” Pioli said.

“We were just not very precise and decisive in the final phase.”

“We have to be focused and continue like we have been doing, knowing that if we want to achieve something extraordinary we have to produce something excellent.”


Courtesy: Reuters and ESPN

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