ROME, Italy, October 27 – Goals from Ezequiel Lavezzi and Christian Maggio helped Napoli to a 2-0 home win against Udinese on Wednesday and prevent their visitors returning to the top of Serie A.
That result ended Udinese’s unbeaten start to the season and allowed Juventus, who beat Fiorentina 2-1 on Tuesday, to remain at the top.
Lazio could have earned that honour but they were held to 1-1 draw at home to Catania and drop to third, a point behind Juve in the congested table.
Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin was gracious in defeat.
“I would say Napoli did more than us even though we played well,” he said. “Napoli deserved to win, they attacked with more impetus.
“Napoli are one of the best teams in our league, they’re dynamic, they play good football.”
Napoli looked to have got a flying start as Marek Hamsik headed home Lavezzi’s free-kick off Kwadwo Asamoah but the effort was ruled out for a marginal offside.
The deadlock was broken on 20 minutes with a goal of sumptuous quality as Lavezzi played a one-two with Edinson Cavani, whose inventive return pass hooked over his head was bettered only by Lavezzi’s volleyed finish.
It was the energetic Argentine striker’s first goal at the San Paolo stadium in a year and a day and the first time Udinese goalkeeper Samir Handanovic had been beaten in more than 400 minutes.
The second came a minute before the break as Blerim Dzemaili crossed from the left and Maggio leapt like a salmon to power home a header.
German Miroslav Klose gave Lazio a 17th-minute lead when he bravely threw himself into the mix to head home Cristian Brocchi’s right-wing cross at the back post despite the attentions of Giuseppe Bellusci’s raised boot.
But a horrible defensive error from Marius Stankevicius gifted Gonzalo Bergessio a free shot from 15 yards and the Argentine made no mistake, although Lazio goalkeeper Federico Marchetti probably could have done better.
Many eyes will now be on rapidly rising AC Milan who thumped Parma 4-1 to move up to fifth, just two points off the top.
“Right now the important thing is to return to the top and we can do that,” said coach Massimiliano Allegri.
“This is an important result to give us consistency. The table is starting to get stretched and we must stay amongst the leaders.”
It was the second time in successive games that they hit four goals following Sunday’s stunning come-from-behind 4-3 win at Lecce, in which they trailed 3-0 at the break.
In that match Kevin-Prince Boateng scored a hat-trick and this time it was the turn of Antonio Nocerino.
The first owed much to luck as he benefited from a ricochet and some hesitant defending to poke home past Antonio Mirante.
The goalkeeper could do nothing about his second, a stunning left-foot volley from 20 yards into the top corner.
His third came in injury-time as he headed home a peach of a cross from Antonio Cassano.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic had used his strength to hold off Rolf Feltscher and slip the ball under Mirante for the third while Sebastian Giovinco scored Parma’s consolation.
Inter Milan continue to struggle and remain fifth from bottom after a 1-1 draw at Atalanta that ensured they have yet to win successive games in the league this season.
But coach Claudio Ranieri was more annoyed about a late penalty his team conceded.
“I hope it will end. The referee didn’t give it, the linesman did. We have to be patient, it’s going that way this year,” he said.
“We’ve played eight games and given away five penalties. That makes the news. There hasn’t been a single clear one.”
Wesley Sneijder gave the nerazzurri the lead on 32 minutes with a deflected shot but German Denis equalised just before the break with a header.
It could have been worse for Inter as substitute goalkeeper Luca Castellazzi had to save Denis’s weak penalty a minute from time to rescue a point after Cristian Chivu’s clumsy foul on Guido Marilungo.