Napoli goes into break top of Serie A after beating Verona
Napoli will go into the delayed winter break top of Serie A after beating relegation-threatened Hellas Verona 2-0 on Saturday.
Kalidou Koulibaly and Jose Callejon scored to send Napoli four points clear of second-place Juventus, which visits Cagliari later.
Roma was also playing later and can move level with third-place Inter Milan, nine points below Napoli, with a victory at home to Atalanta.
After playing over the festive period for the first time, Serie A will resume on Jan. 21.
Napoli had ended 2017 and the first half of the season as winter champions, but was eliminated from the Italian Cup on Tuesday following a surprise quarterfinal defeat to Atalanta.
Maurizio Sarri’s team dominated from the start against Verona and had several chances, with Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne hitting the woodwork.
Mertens also had a goal ruled out for offside before Napoli finally broke the deadlock in the 65th minute, when Koulibaly headed in Mario Rui’s cross.
The goal was awarded after checking with the video assistant referee but Verona coach – and former Napoli player and assistant – Fabio Pecchia was dismissed for his protests.
Napoli all but sealed the match 12 minutes from time when Callejon rushed in at the far post to volley in Insigne’s cross from the left.
Verona remained two points from safety.
Ciro Immobile netted four goals and moved top of the scoring charts as Lazio won 5-2 at struggling Spal.
Lazio moved fourth, ahead of Roma’s match.
Mirco Antenucci had converted a penalty for Spal to cancel out Luis Alberto’s opener before Immobile’s first-half hat trick.
Immobile got his first in the 19th, running onto Luis Alberto’s flicked pass over the defense and lifting the ball over Alfred Gomis.
The Italy forward doubled his tally seven minutes later, firing home Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s through-ball, but Spal reduced the deficit almost immediately, with Antenucci grabbing his second of the match.
However, Immobile headed in Dusan Basta’s cross four minutes before the break to complete his hat trick.
The Spal defense left Immobile completely unmarked six minutes after halftime and he drilled in a corner for his 20th league goal of the season, two more than Inter Milan forward Mauro Icardi.
Spal hit the post, had the follow-up cleared off the line and also had a goal ruled out.
FIRST FOR BONUCCI
AC Milan defender Leonardo Bonucci scored his first goal for the club in a 1-0 win over Crotone – although the Italy international knew little about it.
Milan broke the deadlock nine minutes into the second half when Crotone goalkeeper Alex Cordaz flapped at a corner, sending it onto Bonucci’s back and the ball rebounded into the back of the net.
Bonucci joined Milan from Juventus in the offseason for a fee of more than 40 million euros ($45 million).
Franck Kessie thought he had doubled Milan’s lead but it was ruled out on video review as he had fouled Rolando Mandragora.
Milan had also hit the woodwork in the first half as Cordaz fingertipped Suso’s effort onto the post.
After waiting 19 rounds for a first Serie A victory, Benevento made it two in two matches as it came from behind to beat Sampdoria 3-2.
It remained bottom of Serie A, eight points from safety.
Elsewhere, Walter Mazzarri got off to a winning start in charge of Torino as he steered his new side to a 3-0 win over Bologna.
Genoa beat Sassuolo 1-0.