MILAN: Dries Mertens scored twice as Napoli beat Lazio 4-0 on Sunday to take the outright lead of Serie A on the night they paid tribute to football great Diego Maradona.

As well as Mertens, who has taken over several of Maradona’s records at Napoli, Piotr Zieliski and Fabian Ruiz also netted to help Napoli move three points clear of second-placed AC Milan, who earlier lost 3-1 at home to Sassuolo.

It was a special night for Napoli fans as the match came three days after the one-year anniversary of Maradona’s death. Maradona led Napoli to their only Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990 and is considered a god-like figure in the southern city.

A statue to the former Argentina player and coach was unveiled in the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, while the players wore special shirts.

And Napoli got off to a quick start as goals from Zieliski and Mertens put them 2-0 up with less than 10 minutes on the clock.

The second of Mertens’ goals, in the 29th minute, was a brilliant effort from the edge of the area that curled into the top left corner. It was a club record-extending 139th goal for Napoli from the Belgium forward.

Another delightful goal from Ruiz that arrowed into the top corner from outside the area capped a memorable night for Napoli.

Lazio, who are led by former Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri, slipped seven points below fourth place.

Sassuolo emerged worthy winners at the San Siro earlier on Sunday after recovering from Alessio Romagnoli’s 21st-minute header through a superb Gianluca Scamacca strike, Simon Kjaer’s own goal and a solo effort from Domenico Berardi.

Milan also finished with 10 men after Romagnoli completed a miserable afternoon by being shown a straight red card for taking out Gregoire Defrel.

Their first home league defeat of the season after last weekend’s 4-3 loss at Fiorentina meant that city rivals Inter Milan are now only a point behind them in third, with Atalanta a further three back after beating Juventus in Turin on Sunday.

Roma are three points behind Atalanta in fifth after Tammy Abraham’s 32nd-minute strike gave them a 1-0 win over 13th-placed Torino.

Earlier, Andriy Shevchenko earned his first point as Genoa coach with a largely uneventful goalless draw at Udinese and Bologna won 1-0 at Spezia.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2021

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