Gonzalo Higuain scored two times, and Goran Pandev and Jose Callejon also found the back of the net as Napoli saw off Lazio 4-2 in an entertaining Serie A encounter in Rome on Monday.
The win put an end to a three-match losing skid for the Neapolitans and kept them within six points of first-place Juventus. Lazio, who benefited from a Valon Behrami own-goal and late Keita wonder-strike, sit ninth in Serie A after 14 rounds.
The hosts, coming off a 2-0 win away to Legia Warsaw in the Europa League, made the brighter start at Stadio Olimpico and got the first shot on target when Hernanes tested Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina from distance in the 16th minute.
But just six minutes later Napoli were in front—Higuain completing an impressive solo move and holding off his marker after being sprung by Gokhan Inler’s through ball.
The lead would last less than 60 seconds, however, as Lazio were level in the 25th minute through Behrami’s own-goal.
Hernanes had picked out Antonio Candreva with a delightful diagonal. But when his teammate crossed into the box, it was Behrami, and not striker Brayan Perea, who directed the ball past Reina.
Napoli committed another mistake in the 39th minute that quite nearly cost them, but after stealing the ball off Inler’s feet, Hernanes had the ball smothered at his feet by Reina, who had rushed off his line.
Five minutes after the restart, Napoli took the lead for good, and it was a former Lazio striker—Goran Pandev—who completed a good piece of buildup play that culminated in Christian Maggio’s layoff following Higuain’s cross from the left.
Then, in the 72nd minute it was Pandev setting up the goal, sliding a delicious, cutting ball through the Lazio midfield to Higuain, who had timed his run perfectly before stroking the ball past Federico Marchetti at the far post.
Keita Balde Diao, who had come on for Senad Lulic with 20 minutes to play, briefly restored a measure of hope for Lazio after splitting the Napoli defense and beating Reina with a blistering drive. But in the first minute of stoppage time Callejon rounded out the scoring and an important three points for the Partenopei.
Key Player Grades
|Lazio Player Grades|
He faded considerably after the restart, and Lazio’s buildup play suffered as a result. In the opening frame he was the most creative player on the pitch and looked to have his side in a good position to win the match, but Inler and Behrami succeeded in neutralizing him following the break.
Gonzalo Higuain: A+
|Napoli Player Grades|
One of his best performances in a Napoli shirt saw him score twice and help set up Pandev’s goal that ended up being the match-winner. The 25-year-old also took four shots at target and committed himself on the defensive side of the ball with a pair of important tackles. (Statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com.)
Next up for Lazio is a weekend trip to Torino, after which they’ll round out their Europa League Group Stage campaign with a match at home to Trabzonspor. Napoli, meanwhile, will host Udinese on Saturday before hosting Arsenal in the Champions League next Wednesday.