SSC Napoli on Saturday further extended their grip on the Serie A title race by beating local rivals US Salernitana 1919 2-0 to temporarily move 12 points ahead of the chasing pack.
Goals from Giovanni di Lorenzo and Victor Osimhen immediately either side of halftime made sure that Napoli would be at least nine points clear at the halfway point of the season after a straight-forward win in soaking Salerno.
Luciano Spalletti’s side now have to wait until their closest rivals AC Milan take on UEFA Champions League-chasing SS Lazio in Rome tomorrow to know just how far in front they would be after collecting 50 points in 19 matches.
That is a remarkable return for a club that allowed important players to leave in the summer and whose fans were in open revolt against owner Aurelio de Laurentiis.
“We’ve had a great first half of the season. We lost so many big players in the close-season, but managed to bring together a new group which has started really strongly,” Di Lorenzo told DAZN.
Inter are a further point behind their city rivals and would move provisionally into second place if they beat Empoli today.
Napoli do not have to worry about Juventus, who had been ahead of Inter on goal-difference, but were docked 15 points on Friday for illicit use of transfers to boost their balance sheet.
Save the ruling being overturned on appeal later this year, Juve are out of the race, making Napoli’s bid for a first Serie A crown since 1989-1990 that much simpler.
“We know we have a potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we need to work with that in mind,” Spalletti said. “Our attitude has to be not to waste the chances we have.”
Salernitana are winless in seven matches and sit 16th on 18 points, six in front of Hellas Verona, who are just inside the relegation zone after beating US Lecce 2-0 to continue their recovery under new coach Marco Zaffaroni.
Salernitana were also playing under a new manager of sorts as Davide Nicola took his place on the bench at the Stadio Arechi after being sacked on Monday and then brought back in less than 48 hours later.
Nicola’s team huffed and puffed, but once Di Lorenzo broke their resistance with a precision finish from Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s low pass in first-half stoppage-time there was only going to be one winner.
Napoli made the trip to Salerno without Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, who usually flanks Osimhen, but the Nigeria forward is in unstoppable form and netted his league-leading 13th of the season two minutes after halftime.
Kvaratskhelia’s replacement Eljif Elmas cut inside and then let off a low shot which bounced back off the post and straight to Osimhen, who gobbled up the chance to double Napoli’s lead.
Napoli had one scare with seven minutes remaining when Alex Meret did superbly well to tip Krzysztof Piatek’s low drive onto the post, and that save made sure of a potentially huge three points for a team who are seemingly having everything their way.
Elsewhere, Torino climbed to seventh after a 1-0 win away at ACF Fiorentina.
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