Higuain hat-trick in 6-2 thriller


Gonzalo Higuain's second-half hat-trick lifted Napoli to a 6-2 victory over Hellas Verona in a match that was much closer than the scoreline suggests. It was in fact the visitors who took a shock first-minute lead at the Stadio San Paolo through Iceland midfielder Emil Hallfreosson and, although Marek Hamsik's brace put Napoli in the ascendancy, Hellas equalised midway through the second half through Nicolas Lopez. They were level for less than two minutes, though, as Higuain put Napoli ahead and the Argentinian scored twice more, the last from the penalty spot, after Jose Callejon had scored the Partenopei's fourth. Victory ended a difficult week for Rafael Benitez's men on a high note, but it appeared their luck would worsen when they fell behind in the first few seconds. Napoli had conceded a late leveller against Inter Milan last week and were beaten by Young Boys in the Europa League in midweek, and poor defending on Sunday led to a clearance only reaching the edge of the area, where Hallfreosson was on hand to volley superbly past goalkeeper Rafael Cabral. Although visiting goalkeeper Rafael was tested by Lorenzo Insigne soon after, Hallfreosson almost bagged his second before the 10-minute mark but saw his shot saved, with Luca Toni failing to convert the rebound. It would prove a costly miss as Hamsik equalised a minute before half-time, slotting home from close range after Callejon's cross fell into his path. Hamsik then put Napoli ahead in the 58th minute, reacting quickly to stab home the rebound after his initial save was spilled by Rafael. Hellas drew level eight minutes later, though, as former Roma and Udinese forward Lopez cut into the area from the right before firing low and past Cabral at his front post. Yet Napoli came roaring back and four goals in the final 22 minutes gave the score a rather flattering look, with Higuain getting on the scoresheet by taking the ball past several players before coolly finishing past Rafael. Callejon then got in on the act when he latched on to Hamsik's through-ball before drilling home in the 76th minute. Higuain got his second in the 84th minute when he converted from close range and the former Real Madrid striker completed the scoring in the final moments of the match by scoring from the penalty spot after Hallfreosson had upended substitute Dries Mertens.