Hauge strikes as Milan edge 10-man Sparta

Gonzalo Higuain records hat trick as Napoli defeat Dinamo Moscow


Gonzalo Higuain plundered a hat trick as Napoli recovered from an early fright to seize a commanding advantage against 10-man Dinamo Moscow in the Europa League.

After five successive clean sheets in the competition, Napoli were breached inside two minutes by their visitors from Russia.

But Higuain, with a classic header, a penalty and a thumping strike, fired the Italian side to a 3-1 victory in the first leg of the last-16 tie.

Napoli may regret they did not win by a wider margin, given they played 10 men for almost the entire second half. European football debutant Roman Zobnin was sent off for Dinamo just seconds after the break.

Had Manolo Gabbiadini been fit to start alongside Higuain, rather than ruled out by a muscle injury, the tie might have been all but over.

The men from Moscow caught Napoli cold right at the outset.

Yury Zhirkov had seen a left-footed effort tipped wide by Mariano Andujar, and the opening goal came from a corner that followed.

Former Germany striker Kevin Kuranyi provided the finish with a thumping header from the edge of the six-yard box, bustling through a pack of defenders to meet Mathieu Valbuena's outswinging right-wing corner.

The shaken hosts levelled in the 25th minute, with Faouzi Ghoulam's teasing cross from the left met by the flying figure of Higuain at the near post. The striker's glancing touch diverted the ball across goal into the far right corner, giving goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov little chance.

Higuain scored with greater ease to nudge Napoli in front after 32 minutes, driving a penalty straight down the centre of the goal after Valbuena unnecessarily clipped the heels of Dries Mertens.

Dinamo's task became all the more daunting when 21-year-old midfielder Zobnin was ordered off for a second bookable offence, a foul on Ghoulam.

Higuain had his treble in the 54th minute, after a cross from the left by Mertens deflected off Jonathan de Guzman and onto his chest. The Argentinian cushioned the ball expertly and let it drop to his left foot, bludgeoning a 12-yard strike into the bottom left corner.

De Guzman, Higuain and Gokhan Inler rained efforts in on the Moscow goal, with Buss Henrique and Mertens getting in on the action as the game entered its closing 10 minutes, but a fourth Napoli goal would not come, allowing Dinamo to retain some hope ahead of next Thursday's return leg.

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