Tue, Feb 06, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Juventus spank Sassuolo, but Napoli stay top


SSC Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne, second right, celebrates teammate Dries Mertens, unseen, scoring against Benevento in their Serie A match at the Stadio Ciro Vigorito in Benevento, Italy, on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

SSC Napoli on Sunday clung to top spot in Serie A with a 2-0 victory over bottom-of-the-table Benevento after Gonzalo Higuain hit a rapid hat-trick and Sami Khedira a brace in three minutes as champions Juventus piled on the pressure in the title chase with a 7-0 win over US Sassuolo.

Juventus were 4-0 up by halftime after Alex Sandro opened the scoring on nine minutes in Turin with a quick-fire Khedira brace and a Miralem Pjanic goal burying an overwhelmed Sassuolo, who are rooted in 15th position.

Argentine ace Higuain dominated the second half with a hat-trick in a 20-minute spell to bring his league tally to 13, but Napoli replied with goals in either half from Dries Mertens and Marek Hamsik keeping Maurizio Sarri’s side one point ahead of the six-time defending champions.

“We cannot afford any slipups with Napoli having an extraordinary championship. It was important to win today so we could definitively break away from the chasing pack,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “Many players are beginning to reach their peak.”

The only bad news for Juventus was Blaise Matuidi picking up a muscle injury which Allegri said should keep the France international out of the UEFA Champions League clash against Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday next week.

In Naples, Mertens opened the scoring after 20 minutes at neighboring Benevento with a magnificent lob from a tight angle, but the Belgian limped off with an ankle injury in the final minutes of the game.

Hamsik doubled their lead just after the break, meeting Jose Callejon’s low cross for his 118th goal for the club.

Benevento had a few chances and were even awarded a penalty for a Kalidou Koulibaly tackle, only for it to be revoked by the video assistant referee because of an earlier offside.

“We suffered at the start, but then broke the deadlock with a great goal from Dries Mertens,” Napoli skipper Hamsik said. “Once we went 2-0 up, we tried to slow it down a bit and control the game. We’re not afraid of anyone, as we must only focus on our own results.”

Earlier, AS Roma got back to winning ways to move closer to the Champions League places with Turkish winger Cengiz Under scoring the only goal within the first minute at Hellas Verona.

Roma had not won since Dec. 16 last year, but 20-year-old Under got them off the mark early on, taking the hosts by surprise to slot in his first Serie A goal.

The visitors held on despite Lorenzo Pellegrini being sent off after 51 minutes for tackling Ryder Matos from behind.

Roma stay fifth, but move to within a point of Inter who occupy the final Champions League spot.

“We deservedly won. We went down to 10 men and still didn’t allow a shot on goal,” Roma coach Eusebio di Francesco said.

Verona goalkeeper Nicolas did well to twice block Edin Dzeko, with Radja Nainggolan and Kevin Strootman also coming close.

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