Napoli crush Cagliari to open up four-point lead in Serie A

Published February 28, 2018
CAGLIARI: Napoli’s Jose Callejon (C) scores past Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno during the Serie A match at the Sardegna Arena.—Reuters
CAGLIARI: Napoli’s Jose Callejon (C) scores past Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno during the Serie A match at the Sardegna Arena.—Reuters

MILAN: Napoli took advantage of Juventus’ postponed match and routed Cagliari 5-0 to open up a four-point lead in Serie A on Monday.

Napoli have 69 points from 26 games ahead of champions Juventus whose home game against Atalanta at the Allianz Stadium was postponed on Sunday due to heavy snowfall.

The Gli Azzurri are targeting a third Serie A title and first since 1990, with their sole focus now on the Scudetto after their Europa League and Italian Cup exits.First-half goals from Jose Maria Callejon and Dries Mertens set Napoli on their way before Marek Hamsik, Lorenzo Insigne and a late Mario Rui strike wrapped up the points for the visitors.

“It’s an important result,” said Napoli forward Insigne.

“We are ahead but it depends on us, we must always win. Juve never give up, but we have shown we have great character and big heart. “We’re playing every game as if it were a final. We hope it will pay off in the end.”

Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri fielded an adventurous 4-3-3 formation with attacking midfielders Hamsik and Allan behind a three-pronged attack and it paid off handsomely.

Spaniard Callejon fired the visitors ahead in the 29th minute with a neat finish from 12 metres after a darting run and cross from the right by Brazilian Allan.

Belgium forward Mertens doubled the lead shortly before halftime when he turned in an Elseid Hysaj cross from close range as Napoli took control of the match.

Slovakian Hamsik made it 3-0 and celebrated his 99th league goal for Napoli with a thunderbolt from 18 metres just past the hour mark before Insigne added the fourth with a penalty in the 72nd after defender Leandro Castan handled the striker’s shot.

Left back Rui put the icing on the cake in the 90th minute as he curled a superb free kick which left the home team’s goalkeeper Alessio Cragno rooted to the spot.

The hosts started brightly as Leonardo Pavoletti and 19-year old North Korean talent Kwang-Song Han missed early chances but Napoli moved up a gear midway through the first half.

“I hope to get to 100 points,” said Sarri.

“But for us it would be unknown territory, we don’t know if we can get there.

“I told the lads that of the 12 games left we have to win 11 and draw one,” he added with Napoli’s next two games against Roma and Inter Milan. Cagliari stayed 15th on 25 points, five above the relegation zone, having won only two of their last 13 league games.

Current standings

(Tabulated under played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals against, points):

Napoli 26 22 3 1 60 15 69

Juventus 25 21 2 2 62 15 65

Lazio 26 16 4 6 64 33 52

Inter Milan 26 14 9 3 42 21 51

AS Roma 26 15 5 6 40 21 50

Sampdoria 26 13 5 8 46 34 44

AC Milan 26 13 5 8 37 30 44

Atalanta 25 10 8 7 37 29 38

Torino 26 8 12 6 36 32 36

Fiorentina 26 9 8 9 35 32 35

Udinese 26 10 3 13 37 38 33

Bologna 26 10 3 13 33 38 33

Genoa 26 8 6 12 21 27 30

Cagliari 26 7 4 15 23 41 25

Chievo 26 6 7 13 23 43 25

Sassuolo 26 6 5 15 15 46 23

Crotone 26 5 6 15 23 47 21

SPAL 26 4 8 14 26 49 20

Verona 26 5 4 17 24 51 19

Benevento 26 3 1 22 18 60 10

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2018

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