Gonzalo Higuain burst into life by scoring a hat-trick in the final half hour, his first league goals of the season, to help Rafael Benitez’s erratic Napoli thrash Verona 6-2 in Serie A on Sunday. Troubled Inter Milan scrambled a 1-0 win at Cesena thanks to a controversial first-half penalty and sending-off and leaders Juventus put their European problems behind them with a comfortable 2-0 win at home to a tame Palermo.
Elsewhere, thirty-seven-year old Antonio Di Natale scored his fifth goal of the season, an exquisite curled effort, and Cyril Thereau was also on target in Udinese’s 2-0 home win over Atalanta which left them joint third with Sampdoria on 16 points.
Chile forward Mauricio Pinilla missed a second-half penalty but then scored an 84th-minute winner as Genoa beat Chievo 2-1, handing the home team’s new coach Rolando Maran a losing start.
Ex-Germany forward Miroslav Klose gave Lazio a 2-1 win over Torino in Rome, his first goal of the season, and Fernando Torres started on the bench, coming on in the 80th minute, in AC Milan’s 1-1 draw at home to Fiorentina. Seventh-placed Napoli, who have 14 points from eight games, went into their game under more pressure following a 2-0 Europa League defeat at Young Boys on Thursday when fans waited outside the stadium to protest as the team bus left the ground.
The hosts could not have made a worse start when Emil Hallfredsson volleyed Verona ahead in the first minute but Napoli responded well, took control and were rewarded when Marek Hamsik equalised just before halftime.
The Slovakian pounced again to give Napoli a 57th-minute lead and, although Nicolas Lopez levelled, it was the cue for Higuain to spring into action. The Argentine intercepted a back pass by Panagiotis Tachtsidis to open his account, tapped in Raul Albiol’s pass for his second and then converted a penalty, with Jose Callejon scoring the fourth in between.
Inter’s win hinged on the 30th-minute incident when Inter forward Rodrigo Palacio went down under a challenge from Cesena goalkeeper Nicola Leali, although replays suggested the Argentine began his fall before any contact was made. Amid furious protests, Leali was sent off, Inter awarded a penalty and Mauro Icardi beat replacement goalkeeper Federico Agliardi from the spot.
The gallant Sea Horses nearly levelled before halftime but were repeatedly caught on the break in the second half. The win was a huge relief for Inter coach Walter Mazzarri, under intense pressure after three-goal defeats to Cagliari and Fiorentina and a draw with Napoli, and left his side in eighth place on 12 points.
Midfielder Arturo Vidal and forward Fernando Llorente, with his first goal of the season, scored in each half to give titleholders Juventus their 23rd successive home win in the league. Juventus, who lost their last two Champions League games to Atletico Madrid and Olympiakos, faced no such problems against the harmless Sicilians as they enjoyed 65 percent of the possession. They lead with 22 points, three ahead of AS Roma who drew 0-0 at Sampdoria on Saturday.
Spat over 2006 title
Juventus and Inter Milan have become embroiled in another spat over the 2005/06 Serie A season when Juventus were stripped of the title, which was handed to Inter, and relegated over the Calciopoli corruption scandal. The row broke out on Friday when Juventus president Andre Agnelli paid tribute to former Inter Milan owner Massimo Moratti, who resigned as the club’s honorary president last week. In doing so, Agnelli said, referring to 2006, that “due to his love of Inter, Moratti accepted a scudetto that they had never won.”
In an angry response, Inter released a statement which said: “FC Internazionale notes another attempt by the president Agnelli, to muddy the waters and change the course of history. Unfortunately for him and the whole of Italian football, 2006 was a disastrous year in which the championship was awarded legitimately to Inter by the Italian football federation (FIGC). Juventus were relegated to Serie B along with their reputation. These are the facts. That does not allow anyone to alter …them.”
Juventus chief executive Giuseppe Marotta then waded into the row during a programme aired by state broadcaster RAI on Sunday night. “Andrea Agnelli expressed words of great appreciation for Massimo Moratti,” he said. “Also, with a little bit of irony, he added that the excessive love for Inter had brought him to accept a title that Inter never won on the pitch. Inter’s statement, in being so hard-hitting, was out of place and inopportune.”
The 2006 case has refused to go away. Three years ago, Juventus demanded the 2006 title be taken away from Inter after a Napoli court investigating the case heard evidence of more widespread attempts involving Inter to influence the selection of referees. However, FIGC lawyers did not pursue Juve’s claim, saying any potential charges had expired under the sporting statute of limitations, and Inter were confirmed as champions. The then FIGC president Giancarlo Abete said at the time that he “would have wished” for Inter to renounce the statute of limitations.
AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina were also docked points for influencing the appointment of favoured referees.