Milan, Italy, Dec 16 – Marek Hamsik equalled Diego Maradona’s record as Napoli’s all-time top goalscorer as they took advantage of Inter Milan’s first defeat of the season and moved top of Serie A with a 3-1 win at Torino on Saturday.
Inter went down 3-1 to Udinese at the San Siro earlier in the day and Hamsik, who now has 115 Napoli goals in all competitions, led the way as Maurizio Sarri’s side made the most of Inter’s loss with a three-goal blitz in the first half-hour that saw off Torino and moved them top on 42 points, two ahead of Inter, who drop back to second.
“It’s very pleasing to score 115 goals as a midfielder. That’s a good number,” Slovakian international Hamsik told Sky Sport Italia.
Napoli’s win came after a 1-0 home defeat by Juventus a fortnight ago that saw them relinquish top spot to Inter and a poor goalless draw with Fiorentina last week that saw them fail to take advantage of Inter’s own 0-0 draw at Juve.
“We are really happy with the performance,” added Hamsik.
“I don’t know if it’s an advantage to be top of the table, but it can help us remember how strong we are.”
The loss for Luciano Spalletti’s team also gives third-placed Juventus, themselves four points behind Napoli, the opportunity to leapfrog their old rivals Inter at Bologna on Sunday.
“We will probably need of something (in the winter transfer window) if we’re going to make that step forward,” admitted Spalletti.
Fourth-placed Roma moved level on points with Juve as Argentinian centre-back Federico Fazio’s 94th-minute goal grabbed a 1-0 win over Cagliari, after Diego Perotti had earlier missed a penalty.
The capital club are well in the title race, just four points adrift of Napoli with a game in hand, as they bid for a first Scudetto since 2001.
– Koulibaly strikes early –
Kalidou Koulibaly sent Napoli on their way in the fourth minute when he headed home Allan’s flick-on from a corner, and the away side looked out of sight with just 25 minutes gone when Piotr Zielinski collected Jorginho’s precise through ball and slotted home their second.
Hamsik effectively ended the match as a contest with 30 minutes gone when he swept home Dries Merten’s pass first time past Salvatore Sirigu, scoring his first goal since the start of October and finally equalling Maradona’s record.
Torino striker Andrea Belotti pulled one back in the 63rd minute, ending an eight-game goal drought that stretched back nearly two months, but that was as good as it got for the hosts.
“My players knew what Inter had done and that can either help or hinder you,” said Napoli coach Sarri.
“They can give you the hunger to retake the top spot, but can also pile extra pressure on. Today the lads did well to make something positive from the result at the San Siro.”
Inter looked like they were set to maintain their unbeaten record and momentarily extend their lead at the top when Mauro Icardi levelled the scores with his 18th goal of the season, a smart volley just 71 seconds after Kevin Lasagna’s 14th-minute opener.
But despite dominating, the hosts could not find the breakthrough, and were punished just after the hour mark.
Inter defender Davide Santon compounded a poor display by handballing Silvan Widmer’s cross, and after referee Maurizio Mariani consulted the video assistant referee to check that the ball had not gone out before the Udinese right-back reached the ball, he awarded the penalty from which Rodrigo De Paul gave the away side the lead.
Inter continued to push and almost levelled in the 68th minute when Milan Skriniar thumped Antonio Candreva’s cross off the bar, but were punished when Antonin Barak finished a lightning break with 13 minutes left to sink the home side.