Napoli came from behind to produce a stunning 4-1 victory against Lazio to storm back to the top of the Serie A table.
Juventus, who have won the league title over the last six campaigns, returned to the summit following Friday’s 2-0 triumph at Fiorentina but a dominant second-half showing by Maurizio Sarri’s side ensured the Bianconeri moved back into second, despite dropping just 10 points this season.
Holland international centre-back Stefan de Vrij fired the visitors in front with a powerful strike from close range following great work from striker Ciro Immobile. However, Napoli equalised two minutes before the break through Jose Callejon’s composed finish after Jorginho found the Spaniard with a wonderful lofted pass.
The hosts moved ahead for the first time in the match when Lazio defender Wallace put the ball through his own goal nine minutes after the restart before Mario Rui’s first goal in top-flight football moved Napoli further ahead moments later.
Dies Mertens added gloss to the scoreline with his 19th goal of the season in all competitions after Piotr Zielinski picked out the Belgium international to slot home and seal their eighth consecutive league win.
Patrick Cutrone scored twice as AC Milan breezed to a 4-0 success at SPAL to extend their unbeaten league run to six matches.
— Official SSC Napoli (@en_sscnapoli) February 10, 2018
The academy graduate was handed a place in the starting line-up ahead of summer signings Andre Silva and Nikola Kalinic and the 20-year-old got Milan off to the perfect start when he was quickest to react to Alessio Romagnoli’s parried header after just two minutes.
Hakan Calhanoglu went close to extending the visitors’ lead from range, with SPAL going even closer through Federico Viviani, who saw his effort come back off the right-hand post with goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma well beaten.
However, Cutrone doubled the lead after 65 minutes with a close-range finish before Lucas Biglia curled in a wonderful effort from 25 yards after dispossessing Alberto Grassi to make it 3-0, with Fabio Borini rounding off the scoring in stoppage-time to move Gennaro Gattuso’s side up to seventh.
Atalanta rescued a late point against relegation-threatened Crotone following a 1-1 draw at the Stadio Ezio Scida.
Chances were few and far between for the majority of the match as it looked to be heading to a laborious goalless draw, but Crotone took a surprise lead with 10 minutes remaining when Rolando Mandragora seized on a mistake from goalkeeper Etrit Berisha.
However, the visitors grabbed an equaliser two minutes from time when Jose Palomino scored into an empty net after Andrea Masiello’s close-range effort was stopped by Alex Cordaz as Crotone edged four points ahead of 18th-placed SPAL.
Roma have finally awoken from their slumber after recording their first victory since December 16, with a rejuvenated Radja Nainggolan and Cengiz Under catching the eye in a 1-0 Serie A win at Verona.
Tactical tinkering helped their cause – but it wasn’t all perfect for the 10-man Giallorossi. Below are our three takeaways …
UNDER COMES ALIVE
Roma desperately needed a spark to reboot their season – and they got one in Verona after 45 seconds.
Cengiz Under has been a little slow off the mark since his arrival from Istanbul Baseksehir in the summer, but his quick feet and laser of a left foot vindicated Eusebio Di Francesco’s decision to start the Turkey international almost instantly. His deft header a few minutes later also nearly set up Edin Dzeko, who should have buried a hatful.
Given Roma have looked bereft of ideas for the best part of two months it’s time to stick with the young buck for a while – even when Diego Perotti returns from injury.
NEW FORMATION INSPIRES NAINGGOLAN
Di Francesco has been set in his ways since taking over from Luciano Spalletti in the summer but finally decided to mix it up on Sunday. Gone was his 4-3-3 and in its place a 4-2-3-1, which allowed Radja Nainggolan to show off his full range of abilities just behind Dzeko.
Simply put, the area between midfield and attack was his dominion, particularly in the first half. Serie A’s hardly known for its skin-tight pressing but when the Belgian is in the area, an opponent needs eyes in the back of his head.
Though he’s 30 in May, he has the attributes would be tailor-made for the Premier League. He’s reaffirmed his love for Roma recently after going off the rails – but words only go so far…
YET ANOTHER MELTDOWN
But let’s not kid ourselves – Verona are a dire outfit and, with Benevento finding a sliver of form, are now a good bet for the worst team in Serie A. And though you can debate the merits of Lorenzo Pellegrini’s red card until the mucche come home, it was a rash challenge from behind that would have cost Roma big time against slightly more talented opposition.
Though Roma never came under pressure, a opportunity to score more than once in a game passed them by yet again. In fact, they have not struck twice in a game since December 1 and even that was a routine 3-1 win over a lowly SPAL. They are still in the race for Champions League football, amazingly – but better days need to be in their future.
It wouldn't be an afternoon without an absolute meltdown. Pellegrini with a another moment of stupidity.— John Solano (@Solano_56) February 4, 2018
Former Liverpool defender Gabriel Paletta was reported to be eyeing a move to either China or Turkey after his contract with AC Milan was terminated by mutual consent on Tuesday.
“The decision to rescind the contract with Paletta was agreed by mutual consent,” Milan club director Massimiliano Mirabelli said on Twitter.
“I wish to salute a great man even more than a great player. An example of fairness, professionalism and sporting behaviour.
“All the best Gabriel, for everything that will come in your career.”
Fenerbahce are the favourites to sign the centre-back, who turns 32 in two weeks, and who joined Milan from Parma in 2015 on a three-year deal which was due to expire in June.
But Turkish clubs Galatasaray and Antalyaspor are also interested in the player who is also considering a move to China.
Milan received a boost by beating Lazio 2-1 last weekend in Serie A and face Simone Inzaghi’s team again Wednesday in the Italian Cup.