Leaders Juve go six clear, Napoli keep elusive title bid alive with Inter defeat

Reuters, ROME

Tue, Dec 17, 2013 - Page 20

SSC Napoli kept their hopes of earning their first Serie A title since 1990 alive with an epic 4-2 win over 10-man Inter, after a Carlos Tevez hat-trick put leaders Juventus six points clear with a 4-0 rout of US Sassuolo on Sunday.

Goals from Gonzalo Higuain, Dries Mertens, Blerim Dzemaili and Jose Callejon saw Rafael Benitez beat his old club in a hugely entertaining contest and go eight points behind Juventus in third place after falling 11 behind earlier in the day.

Goran Pandev missed an added-time penalty after winning the spot-kick just after coming on as a substitute, but it made no difference to the result and Inter stay fifth on 28 points, seven away from Champions League qualification.

Tevez struck for Juve in the 15th, 45th and 68th minutes to move Antonio Conte’s side up to 43 points, six ahead of AS Roma.

The 29-year-old also set up Federico Peluso’s first Juventus goal in the 28th minute, sending in a beautiful free-kick that the midfielder headed home with the help of Sassuolo defender Luca Antei and was given a standard ovation when substituted after netting his third.

Inter’s task was made harder in the 71st minute when Ricky Alvarez was sent off after a second booking for handball, enraging Mazzari and allowing Napoli respite from the visitors’ enterprising attacking play.

Napoli’s win put them two points behind unbeaten Roma, who were to travel to struggling AC Milan yesterday looking to close the gap between themselves and Juve back to three points.

Esteban Cambiasso and Yuto Nagatomo struck for an Inter side that, despite losing, will be happy with the grit and class shown in such a hostile environment.

Higuain gave Napoli the lead in the ninth with a brilliant volleyed finish when Nagatomo headed Gokhan Inler’s pass straight into the Argentine’s path, only for Cambiasso to level in the 35th.

It only took three minutes for the hosts to retake the lead with a stunning long-range strike from Mertens after Dzemaili held the ball up well.

They doubled their lead three minutes before the break through Dzemaili, who tapped in after reacting first when Mertens’ shot was pushed away by Samir Handanovic.

Nagatomo gave Inter hope when Napoli goalkeeper Rafael pushed Fredy Guarin’s scuffed shot into his path, but despite a spirited display, Callejon removed any doubt when he tapped in Lorenzo Insigne’s cross with nine minutes left.

Two goals from Miroslav Klose, on his return after more than a month out injured, boosted SS Lazio to eighth place on 20 points after a 2-0 win over AS Livorno.

ACF Fiorentina took fourth spot with a comfortable 3-0 defeat of Bologna in which Giuseppe Rossi scored his 13th goal of the season.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Torino moved to within six points of European soccer after a 2-0 win at Udinese, Genoa drew Atalanta BC 1-1, UC Sampdoria defeated relegation rivals AC Chievo Verona a 1-0 and Parma drew Cagliari 0-0.