Napoli's French defender Kalidou Koulibaly (C/L) celebrates with teammates after scoring against Verona
Milan (AFP) - Napoli cemented their lead position as Serie A leaders and kept the pressure on champions Juventus with a 2-0 win over Verona Saturday while Ciro Immobile scored four as Lazio won 5-2 at struggling SPAL.
Bottom club Benevento won just their second Serie A game by beating Sampdoria 3-2 and AC Milan and Genoa also enjoyed welcome wins in the final round of games before Italy’s two-week winter break.
Both Napoli goals came in the second half against dogged Verona, with Kalidou Koulibaly breaking the deadlock after 65 minutes in Naples and Jose Callejon sealing the win 13 minutes later.
Napoli have 51 points from 20 games – four clear of Juventus who play at Cagliari later on Saturday – with Inter Milan a distant third, nine points behind the leaders after a 1-1 in Fiorentina on Friday.
“We know that Juventus have years of certainties - that they can safely close above 90 points, while we can not say the same thing about ourselves,” said Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri.
“We know that we must repeat last season’s performances to get back into the Champions League and anything more than that is undiscovered territory.”
Roma missed the chance to join Luciano Spalletti’s Inter on 42 points, slipping to fifth after a shock 2-1 defeat to ten-man Atalanta in Rome.
Midfielder Radja Nainggolan was dropped by Roma for posting a video of himself smoking, drinking and swearing on New Year’s Eve.
And Atalanta – fresh from their Italian Cup defeat of Napoli – were two goals up by half-time through Andreas Cornelius and Marten de Roon.
Edin Dzeko reduced the deficit on 56 minutes but playing the entire second half a man down after de Roon was sent off for a second yellow card the side from Bergamo held on to move up to seventh.
Lazio – like Roma with a game in hand – moved just two points behind Inter in fourth after their seven-goal spectacular in Ferrara.
Immobile is having another great season at Lazio after scoring 23 times last campaign, and fired in four to move two ahead of Inter’s Mauro Icardi at the top of the Serie A scorers charts, with 20 goals in 19 games.
Spaniard Luis Alberto opened for Lazio after just five minutes with Immobile bagging a brace in either half. Mirco Antenucci had pulled SPAL level twice, the first from the spot on eight minutes and the second after half an hour.
“It’s a magic time for us,” said Immobile. “My goals come thanks to everyone’s work, there were perfect assists on the first three. We can now enjoy the holidays after this win.”
Captain Leonardo Bonucci headed in his first AC Milan goal to see off Crotone 1-0 win at San Siro, further boosting the struggling side after their Italian Cup win over Inter.
New Torino boss Walter Mazzarri said he was excited to be back coaching in Italy after just one season spent as manager of English club Watford
“The new year could not have started better,” said the Italy defender of Milan who are on 28 points in eleventh position.
“The derby improved our confidence, our self-belief, and you could see that by how we took risks.”
Benevento’s win was their second in a row after beating Chievo last week, with Massimo Coda’s brace giving them a 3-2 win over 10-man Sampdoria, while Andrey Galabinov scored late to move Genoa away from the relegation zone with a 1-0 at Sassuolo.
- Mazzarri lifts Torino -
Earlier former Watford boss Walter Mazzarri made a winning start as Torino coach with a 3-0 home win over Bologna.
Lorenzo De Silvestri, M’Baye Niang and Iago Falque all scored to give Torino just their second win in their last nine matches.
Torino are tenth, level on points with Milan, with Bologna three places below after their fourth defeat in their last five games.
Mazzarri’s predecessor Sinisa Mihajlovic was sacked after a 2-0 Italian Cup defeat to Juventus midweek.
“If I came back to Italy it’s because I felt fire in my belly again,” said the former Inter Milan and Napoli coach, who managed English Premier League club Watford last season.
“In the last two days it was full immersion, I did not sleep.”
“I’m happy, it’s clear, anyone who knows me well will know that between winning and losing really changes my mood.”