Gonzalo Higuain scored twice as Napoli hammered Frosinone 5-1 to assume first place in the Serie A table.
Defeats for previous frontrunners Inter Milan and second-placed Fiorentina meant two goals for the Argentinian striker, and efforts from Raul Albiol, Marek Hamsik and Manolo Gabbiadini, anointed Napoli as winter champions.
Paolo Sammarco’s 81st-minute strike soothed Frosinone’s pain, but they are now four points adrift of safety following Genoa’s triumph over Atalanta.
With Inter falling 1-0 at home to Sassuolo earlier in the day, top spot was up for grabs and Napoli snatched it. Albiol opened the scoring in the 12th minute.
Still say Napoli have played best football in Italy this season but sheer resilience of Juve makes them bookies' favourite & prob rightly so— Paolo Bandini (@Paolo_Bandini) January 10, 2016
Jorginho’s corner flew over Brazilian goalkeeper Massimo Zappino and found the Spaniard for a tap-in at the far post. The Azzurri were 2-0 up on the half-hour mark as Higuain won and converted a penalty – blasting the ball straight down the middle – following Roberto Crivello’s foul.
Hamsik then put the visitors out of sight with the first of two goals in two minutes, the Slovakian reaching the edge of the area unchecked before beating Zappino.
Another 60 seconds passed before Higuain scored again. The Stadio Matusa held its breath as the former Real Madrid striker danced past Modibo Diakite and Zappino before finishing with aplomb.
Goal number five belonged to substitute Gabbiadini, with Higuain’s replacement zipping the ball over Zappino’s shoulders with his left boot in the 71st minute. The new leaders would not mind too much when Sammarco blotted their copybook with a late strike for Frosinone.
Higuain said: “It means nothing to be winter champions, it’s not worth anything. Being there in May is what counts. We are working well, there are another five months to go and we hope to continue like this.”
Inter’s title hopes were unexpectedly dented in dramatic fashion by Sassuolo, who clinched victory at the San Siro thanks to the heroics of their inspired goalkeeper Andrea Consigli and an injury-time penalty from Domenico Berardi.
Inter were unable to defeat Eusebio Di Francesco’s team despite dominating throughout the game in Milan.
With 10 seconds of the five additional minutes remaining, Berardi confidently stroked the ball past Samir Handanovic after Inter defender Miranda had fouled Gregoire Defrel in the box.
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