Italian Serie A Roundup, Jan. 9
Edinson Cavani scored a hat trick in Napoli's 3-0 win over Juventus in Serie A on Sunday, a memorable performance that could propel the southern club toward a spot in next season's Champions League.
A member of the Uruguay team that finished fourth in the World Cup, Cavani converted headers in the 20th, 26th and 53rd minutes to tie Udinese's Antonio Di Natale for the league scoring lead with 13 goals apiece.
After his last goal, Cavani tucked the ball under his jersey to celebrate the coming birth of his child, then walked off to a standing ovation from a soldout San Paolo stadium when he was substituted in the 85th.
After the final whistle, virtually all of the 60,000 fans stuck around to sing and celebrate.
"Seeing this stadium like this and the people full of joy really motivates us," Cavani said. "It really gives you goose bumps."
The victory moved Napoli within four points of Serie A leader AC Milan, which labored to a 4-4 draw with Udinese earlier.
Milan leads with 40 points, Napoli has 36, Lazio 34, AS Roma 32 and Juventus and Palermo 31 each.
The top three teams at the end of the season qualify directly for the Champions League.
"We've still got to improve a lot," Cavani said. "We won a great game but we still made a lot of errors. We have to become more solid in every game."
Juventus has conceded seven goals in two matches after being beaten 4-1 by Parma on Thursday. Making his Juventus debut, newly signed Luca Toni had an equalizer disallowed in the 23rd for a foul from the 1.94-meter (6-foot-4) striker.
"We're working on a long-term plan," said Juventus coach Luigi Del Neri. "These losses hurt, of course, but we've got to accept them as part of the overall project."
Earlier, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored an injury-time equalizer for Milan in a wild match at the San Siro.
Milan fell behind 3-1 following two goals from Udinese's Antonio Di Natale, who raised his league-leading total to 13, but an own goal from Mehdi Benatia and Alexandre Pato's second goal in the 82nd minute drew Milan level at 3-3.
Argentine forward German Denis put Udinese back in front in the 84th, and Ibrahimovic equalized in the third minute of added time after collecting a pass inside the area from Antonio Cassano, who has now set up two goals in his first two matches with Milan.
"We're not taking advantage of the chances to pull away," said Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso. "We've got to do more. If Inter wins the two games it has to make up they'll be back within five points, and that's what worries me."
Five-time defending champion Inter Milan also struggled before winning 2-1 at Catania.
Alejandro Gomez gave the Sicilian club the lead in the 71st before Esteban Cambiasso hit back in the 75th and 79th minutes to hand new Inter coach Leonardo his second consecutive win since replacing Rafa Benitez.
On a day in which all of the traditional powers looked in trouble at some point, Lazio lost 2-1 at home to Lecce and Brazil defender Juan made two costly errors as Sampdoria rallied to beat 10-man AS Roma 2-1.
Lazio goalkeeper Fernando Muslera scored an own goal in the 39th, Stefano Mauri equalized for the hosts in the 47th but Carlos Grossmuller put Lecce back ahead in the 72nd.
Inter, which has two games to make up, is seventh with 29 points.
"It's difficult to read the standings now," Leonardo said. "We've just got to keep moving forward on our own road little by little, game by game, like today."
Also, it was: Bari 0, Bologna 2; Cesena 0, Genoa 0; Chievo Verona 0, Palermo 0; Fiorentina 3, Brescia 2; and Parma 1, Cagliari 2.
In the new lunchtime fixture, Mirko Vucinic put Roma ahead in the 18th after taking advantage of a stagnant defense. But in the 55th, Juan gifted the ball to Angelo Palombo and Roma goalkeeper Julio Sergio tripped the Sampdoria captain, receiving a red card and giving away a penalty that was converted by Nicola Pozzi.
Stefano Guberti then scored the winner in the 83rd when Juan was unable to clear.
"They were two errors, but two errors from a great champion and that can happen over the course of a career," said Roma coach Claudio Ranieri.
Sampdoria ended the match with nine men after Stefano Lucchini and Daniele Guastaldello picked up their second yellow cards in the final five minutes.
Having joined on a six-month loan from Manchester United, Federico Macheda made his Sampdoria debut in the final 13 minutes and wasted an excellent scoring chance by heading wide a minute before Guberti's winner.