MILAN: Serie A title hopefuls Napoli were thumped 3-0 at Sampdoria on Sunday after coach Carlo Ancelotti tinkered with the team, dropping captain Marek Hamsik and forward Jose Callejon.
Gregoire Defrel scored two first-half goals to put Sampdoria in command and, although Napoli improved after the break, Fabio Quagliarella added a third with an outrageous flick in the 75th minute.
A low cross was sent into the area and the 35-year-old forward, airborne at the near post, athletically diverted it into the net with the back of his heel.
Last season’s runners-up Napoli, who came from behind to win both their first two games, have six points from three matches and dropped three behind perfect Juventus.
“We had the same start as the other two games, but this time we didn’t manage to overturn it,” said Ancelotti. “We again gifted them the first half with a bad attitude, especially on the opening goal. We went 1-0 down, got nervous and started to struggle.”
Ancelotti’s predecessor Maurizio Sarri was publicly criticised by club president Aurelio De Laurentiis last season for failing to rotate the team.
Even so, it was a bold move by Ancelotti as Hamsik had appeared in every Serie A match since April, 2015 while Callejon had started their last 54 league games.
But it quickly backfired as Defrel, who managed one league goal for Roma last season, collected a pass from Riccardo Saponara and rifled a 25-metre shot between David Ospina and his near post in the 11th minute.
Defrel, cleverly set up by Quagliarella, added the second just after the half hour with a shot which took a deflection off Raul Albiol and sneaked past Ospina.
Ancelotti sent on Adam Ounas and Dries Mertens in the second half and, although Napoli improved markedly, they were floored by Quagliarella’s typically flamboyant effort as Sampdoria completed their first win over Napoli since 2010.
In other games, Kevin-Prince Boateng scored the opener as Sassuolo moved second behind Juventus with seven points after an eight-goal thriller gave them a 5-3 win over Genoa.
Marco Benassi scored his third goal in two matches as Fiorentina beat Udinese 1-0 to remain perfect through two matches with their postponed opener at Sampdoria to be made up later this month.
Torino got their first win of the season 1-0 over SPAL thanks to a Nicolas Nkoulou goal seven minutes into the second half after the game was suspended for nearly an hour because of a violent storm in Turin.
In Rome, Spanish midfielder Luis Alberto scored the only goal after 49 minutes to give Lazio, who lost their opening two matches, their first win of the season over local rivals Frosinone.
Also, Nicolo Barella scored before the break to give Cagliari a 1-0 win at Atalanta; and Chievo Verona drew 0-0 with Empoli.
Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2018