S.S.C. Napoli are proving a point to Serie A leaders Juventus that this is more than just a one-team race for the 2016-17 league trophy.
Maurizio Sarri‘s side are looking to snap a 28-year drought by winning the Scudetto this season. Juventus has lifted the Serie A trophy for five consecutive seasons and are definitely in the running to do so again come May.
Coming into Saturday’s road test at Bologna, Napoli knew a win would put them three points behind Juventus who host Inter Milan tomorrow.
Sarri’s side were unbeaten in their last 16 fixtures in all competitions, with only three league defeats this season.
It was a quick start for the visitors as Marek Hamsik headed home the opener just four minutes in. Two minutes later, Lorenzo Insigne rifled home from long-range for a 2-0 Napoli lead.
Bologna striker Mattia Destro failed to convert a 26th minute penalty which kept the score at 2-0. However, Napoli midfielder Jose Callejon was sent off after earning two yellow cards in quick succession. The winger was whistled for handball which gave Bologna the penalty, before earning a second yellow for violent conduct.
Six minutes later, Bologna was reduced to 10-men after defender Adam Masina was given a straight red for a tackle on Dries Mertens. Mertens made the hosts pay on the ensuing free-kick, rifling it into the top right corner.
Bologna defender Vasilis Torosidis headed a goal back in the 36th, before Mertens doubled his tally and extended Napoli’s lead two minutes before halftime.
Hamsik made it 5-1 in the 70th, before capping his hat trick four minutes later with a 25-yard curler. Mertens also capped his hat trick in the 90th minute to give him 16 league goals on the season.
Overall, it was Napoli’s strongest performance of the season and most of it coming with only 10-men. They created nine efforts on goal, scoring on seven of them. Napoli keeper Pepe Reina made six saves in the win, while Bologna keeper Antonio Mirante two saves before being subbed off late.
Hamsik moved into second place on Napoli’s all-time scoring chart, with 109 goals. He now only trails the great Diego Maradona, who is first with 115. It was also Napoli’s biggest-ever Serie A away win.
Sarri’s side have a favorable league schedule for February, with matches against Genoa, Chievo Verona, and Atalanta. They also have the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 draw against Real Madrid.
Bologna host Milan on Wednesday, before traveling to Sampdoria four days later. One thing is for sure, Napoli is making a strong case to pressure Juventus until the final weekend.
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