Dries Mertens marked his 30th birthday with two goals and an assist to help Napoli beat Cagliari 3-1 and move into second in Serie A on Saturday.
Napoli moved two points above Roma but will be mathematically out of the title race if Juventus beat city rival Torino late Saturday. Roma could hand Juventus the title if it fails to match or beat the Bianconeri’s result when it visits AC Milan on Sunday. There are just three rounds remaining.
Mertens took less than two minutes to celebrate his birthday with the opening goal, getting in front of his marker to fire home Faouzi Ghoulam’s cross for Napoli’s 100th goal in all competitions.
Napoli dominated and had several chances to take the lead, with delightful interplay between Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne, and Jose Callejon.
Marek Hamsik almost scored an astonishing goal from near the halfway line as he spotted Cagliari goalkeeper Rafael off his line, but his cheeky lob landed on the roof of the net as the whole stadium applauded.
Mertens doubled his tally four minutes after the break, with a precise shot into the bottom left corner. It was the Belgium international’s 30th goal of the season.
Mertens turned provider in the 67th minute with a through ball to Insigne, who controlled it as he turned and then lifted it into the far side of the net.
Mertens and Insigne were given standing ovations when they were replaced in the final 15 minutes. Substitute Diego Farias netted a consolation for Cagliari in stoppage time.