Napoli march on with Kvaratskhelia and Osimhen, Juve squeeze past Fiorentina
Napoli continued their march towards a first Serie A title in over three decades with Sunday’s 3-0 win over rock-bottom Cremonese which provisionally moved the runaway league leaders 16 points clear.
A 33-year wait for the league crown looks closer to ending with each passing week and once again Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Victor Osimhen were the key men for Luciano Spalletti’s flamboyant team at the Stadio Maradona.
Winger wizard Kvaratskhelia set Napoli on their way with a delightful individual effort in the 22nd minute on his 22nd birthday before Osimhen’s league-leading 17th goal of the season midway through the second half and an Eljif Elmas strike 11 minutes from the end.
Thanks to a sixth straight league win Napoli will be at least 13 points ahead of Inter Milan come Tuesday morning, their closest rivals travelling to crisis club Sampdoria for the final match of this round of fixtures on Monday night.
Cremonese meanwhile are still yet to win in their first Serie A season since 1996 and look certain to go straight back down despite another committed performance under recently-appointed coach Davide Ballardini.
The away side, who knocked Napoli out of the Italian Cup on the same ground last month, started well but as soon as Kvaratskhelia weaved into the box and drilled home his ninth league goal of his debut Serie A campaign the game was up.
Osimhen was not in his usual fiery form but in the 65th minute the Nigeria striker was in the right place to tap in from practically on the goal line when following a corner Kim Min-Jae nodded the ball over to him.
And substitute Elmas ensured that Napoli’s tally of dropped points stayed at an incredible seven, exchanging passes with Giovanni Di Lorenzo before lashing in his sixth goal of the season past Marco Carnesecchi
– Rabiot sinks Fiorentina –
Juventus survived a scare in their 1-0 home win over Fiorentina after Gaetano Castrovilli’s 89th-minute leveller for the away side was ruled out for an extremely tight offside.
France midfielder Rabiot met Angel Di Maria’s exquisite cross with a header which just crossed the line in the 34th minute in Turin, his fourth Serie A goal of the season which moved Juventus up to ninth.
And Castrovilli’s superb first-time strike was chalked off following a pitchside VAR check when referee Michael Fabbri ruled Luca Ranieri was interfering with play in the build-up to the goal as his heel strayed offside.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side are in mid-table due to the 15-point penalty inflicted last month for transfer offences, 10 points behind Lazio who currently occupy the last European place in sixth.
“We needed a bit of time to adapt (to the punishment), now we need to go after the teams above us one by one,” said Allegri.
“We shouldn’t forget that we would have been second on 44 points.”
Juventus could have sealed victory earlier but Dusan Vlahovic was denied his third goal in as many league matches since returning from injury when his neat finish just before the hour mark was scrubbed off for another extremely tight offside.
Juve are level on 29 points with Monza, whose dream debut Serie A season continued with a 1-0 win at Bologna which moved them into 10th and extended their unbeaten league run to eight matches.
Juve, Monza and Bologna are all a point behind Udinese, whose defender Destiny Udogie scored the fastest goal of the Serie A season in their 2-2 draw with Sassuolo.
Italy international Udogie, who will join Tottenham Hotspur next season, opened the scoring after just 25 seconds with a right-footed strike from the edge of the area.