February 11, 2018 / 4:32 AM / 3 months ago

Soccer: Serie A tit-for-tat continues as Napoli go back on top

MILAN (Reuters) - Napoli continued their tit-for-tat battle with Juventus at the top of Serie A when they hit back to beat Lazio 4-1 on Saturday and return to the top of the table with their eighth league win in a row.

Soccer Football - Serie A - Napoli vs Lazio - Stadio San Paolo, Naples, Italy - February 10, 2018 Napoli's Lorenzo Insigne celebrates after Lazio’s Wallace scored a own goal and the second for Napoli REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

AC Milan’s revival under Gennaro Gattuso showed no signs of stopping as they won 4-0 at SPAL, extending their unbeaten run to eight matches in all competitions, while Crotone and Atalanta splashed their way to a 1-1 draw.

Napoli, who have 63 points from 24 games, moved one ahead of champions Juventus who briefly went top after beating Fiorentina 2-0 on Friday and have also won their last eight league games.

The pattern was the same as the previous two weekends when Juventus played first, won and went top only to be pulled back by their rivals.

Juventus will also play first for the next four rounds of matches, a situation which has drawn complaints from Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri.

Third-placed Lazio dropped 16 points behind the leading pair after failing to capitalise on a flying start when defender Stefan de Vrij got between the Napoli defence to nudge Ciro Immobile’s cross past Pepe Reina in the third minute.

The visitors looked dangerous until Jose Callejon sprung the offside trap to latch on to Jorginho’s inspired through ball and fire past Thomas Strakosha to level two minutes before halftime.

Sarri was sent off for dissent shortly afterwards but his side ran riot in the second half.

Lazio defender Wallace put through his own goal before Mario Rui scored with a shot which deflected off Piotr Zielinski two minutes later and Dries Mertens added the fourth to repeat the scoreline in their previous meeting of the season.

Patrick Cutrone, a Milan product who was preferred in the starting line-up to 38 million euro signing Andre Silva, put Milan ahead with a close-range goal in the second minute after SPAL goalkeeper Alex Meret parried Alessio Romagnoli’s header.

The 20-year-old struck again in the 65th minute from another rebound before midfielder Lucas Biglia and substitute Fabio Borini completed the scoring, leaving Milan seventh on 38 points and behind Sampdoria on goal difference.

“There is always something that needs improving, for example we suffered too much after the first goal,” said Gattuso, who took over in November for his first Serie A coaching role after Vincenzo Montella was sacked.

Atalanta are a further point behind Milan after snatching a point in atrocious conditions on a rain-sodden pitch.

Rolando Mandragora put Crotone ahead with 10 minutes left but Argentine defender Jose Luis Palomino equalised two minutes from time with his first Serie A goal since joining Atalanta from Bulgarian champions Ludogorets Razgrad last year.

Soccer Football - Serie A - Napoli vs Lazio - Stadio San Paolo, Naples, Italy - February 10, 2018 Napoli fans with flares REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

Writing by Brian Homewood in Bern, eediting by Ed Osmond

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