Mertens hits hat-trick as Napoli rout Cagliari
Dries Mertens hit a hat-trick and Marek Hamsik and Piotr Zielinski scored one apiece as five star Napoli romped to a 5-0 win at Cagliari to close to within five points of Juventus. Champions Juventus can take their lead over Roma and AC Milan to seven points with a win in the Turin derby at Torino later. In the meantime, the Old Lady’s title rivals are closing in. Both Lazio, who secured a 2-1 win at Sampdoria on Saturday, and Napoli are now five points off the pace and Roma and AC Milan will aim to reduce their four-point gaps to the champions when they play today. Fresh from securing top spot in their Champions League qualifying group and sweeping Inter Milan aside last week, Napoli made a confident start with Jose Callejon, Zielinski and then Mertens testing Marco Storari in the Cagliari net in the opening 11 minutes.
Cagliari had dropped points in only two of their seven home fixtures, but Maurizio Sarri’s men were about to change that in clinical fashion. Just after the half-hour Mertens turned quickly in the area to fire a pinpoint shot past Storari and into the far bottom corner. The visitors suffered a blow when Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly limped off injured with an apparent knee injury.
But Napoli doubled their lead before the interval when Hamsik slotted home from close range after Insigne had nodded a Callejon cross on to the bar. It was the Slovak’s 105th goal for Napoli and leaves him 10 short of tying Diego Maradona’s club record of 115.
Storari did well to parry Callejon’s firsttimer from an Insigne pass shortly after the restart but couldn’t stop Zielinski’s rocket from distance on 51 minutes.
Cagliari’s heads dropped and a clinical Mertens capitalised with a brace of goals in three second-half minutes.
CAGLIARI: Napoli’s Croatian defender Ivan Strinic (R) fights for the ball with Cagliari’s Italian midfielder Daniele Dessena during the Italian Serie A football match Cagliari Calcio vs SSC Napoli at the Sant’Elia Stadium in Cagliari yesterday.