Napoli strengthened their grip on third place in Serie A with a comfortable 3-1 home win over Udinese. Dries Mertens and Manolo Gabbiadini put them two in front before Cyril Thereau reduced the arrears. However, Thereau then scored an own goal to restore Napoli's two-goal advantage, which they held to the end to establish a seven-point cushion over fourth-placed Fiorentina. Rafael Benitez's men remain just four adrift of second-placed Roma, who beat Cagliari in Sardinia. Napoli took the lead in the eighth minute when Mertens and Gonzalo Higuain exchanged passes before the former got a favourable rebound on his way into the penalty area, sending his shot into the far corner of Orestis Karnezis' goal. The hosts did not really look to build on their lead, though, and Udinese had a few half chances before Gabbiadini made it two for the Azzurri. Marek Hamsik sent him through and the former Sampdoria forward made no mistake with only Karnezis to beat. Udinese did not know what had hit them, having not run any risk of conceding apart from on those two occasions, but they hit back with Allan's shot striking the crossbar in the 25th minute. Two minutes later, Thereau brought them back into the game, latching on to Allan's pass before beating the onrushing Rafael. Udinese grew in confidence as a result of the goal and it was the hosts who were arguably happier to hear the half-time whistle. There were chances at both ends as the game opened up in the second half. After Jose Callejon failed to find the target with his shot, a Mertens free-kick was diverted into his own goal by Thereau, giving Napoli a bit of breathing space and knocking the stuffing out of Udinese. Their attempts to respond were tame with Napoli this time able to hold on to their advantage without any scares, reinforcing their position in third place and remaining on course for a Champions League berth.
Football SERIE A