Mertens scores as Napoli race to top

MILAN: Dries Mertens added to his collection of memorable goals with another brilliant effort as Napoli won 3-2 at Genoa in a thrilling match to go back to the top of Serie A on Wednesday.
Hapless Benevento were denied their first-ever top flight point after they conceded a goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time at Cagliari, barely seconds after equalising, to lose 2-1. It was a record-extending 10th straight defeat
Big-spending AC Milan ended a four-match winless run in the league by hammering Chievo 4-1 away and champions Juventus beat SPAL by the same score, taking their goal tally to 10 in their last two games.
Genoa stunned unbeaten Napoli when Adel Taarabt flashed an angled drive in off the far post after four minutes, only for Mertens to reply from a free kick 10 minutes later.
The best was still to come from the Belgian, however.
Amadou Diawara hoisted a long ball forward from the halfway line and into the Genoa area where Mertens brought it under control with one exquisite touch and scored with a shot off the crossbar from a tight angle without breaking stride.
Napoli’s passing was often stunning and they extended their lead on the hour when a Mertens shot was turned into his own net by Ervin Zukanovic, although they still had to cling on for the win after Armando Izzo headed one back for Genoa.
Napoli have 28 points from 10 games — nine wins and a draw — and are two clear of Inter Milan who beat Sampdoria 3-2 on Tuesday. Juve’s win left them third on 25 points ahead of Lazio, who won 2-1 at Bologna, on goal difference.
Federico Bernardeschi got Juve off the mark with a brilliant volley and Paulo Dybala scored direct from a free kick. Alberto Paloschi replied for SPAL who had a potential equaliser disallowed for offside, before Gonzalo Higuain and Juan Cuadrado scored in a five-minutes spell for Juve.
Hakan Calhanoglu was on target for Milan as he become the first Turkish player to score in Serie A for 14 years, the last being Emre Belozoglu for Inter Milan against Roma in 2003.
Suso set Milan on their way in the 36th minute before Bostjan Cesar put through his own goal six minutes later. Calhanoglu netted in the 55th minute and although Valter Birsa pulled one back for Chievo, Nikola Kalinic grabbed Milan’s fourth.
Roberto De Zerbi made his debut as coach of Benevento, who sacked Marco Baroni on Monday, for their visit to Cagliari, themselves on a run of five successive defeats.
Paolo Farago gave the Cagliari a ninth minute lead and Marco Sau fired a penalty against the crossbar for the Sardinians seven minutes later.
Serie A debutants Benevento thought they had claimed their first point when Pietro Iemmello converted a penalty in the fourth minute of stoppage time but they had barely stopped celebrating when Leonardo Pavoletti grabbed Cagliari’s winner.
A 10th-minute penalty from Diego Perotti was enough to give AS Roma a 1-0 win over lowly Crotone.
— Reuters
Italian Serie A results on Wednesday:
Atalanta 3 (Freuler 50, Ilicic 59, Kurtic 75) Verona 0
Chievo 1 (Birsa 61) AC Milan 4 (Suso 36, Cesar 42-og, Calhanoglu 55, Kalinic 64)
Bologna 1 (Lulic 50-og) Lazio 2 (Milinkovic-Savic 4, Lulic 28)
Juventus 4 (Bernardeschi 14, Dybala 22, Higuain 65, Cuadrado 70) SPAL 1 (Paloschi 34)
Roma 1 (Perotti 10-pen) Crotone 0
Genoa 2 (Taarabt 4, Izzo 76) Napoli 3 (Mertens 14, 30, Zukanovic 60-og)
Fiorentina 3 (Benassi 29, Simeone 66, Babacar 75-pen) Torino 0
Sassuolo 0 Udinese 1 (Barak 32)
Cagliari 2 (Farago 9, Pavoletti 90+5) Benevento 1 (Iemmello 90+4-pen)
On Tuesday
Inter Milan 3 (Skriniar 18, Icardi 32, 54) Sampdoria 2 (Kownacki 64, Quagliarella 85)