Napoli moved joint top of Serie A after goals from Gonzalo Higuain, Vlad Chiriches and Jose Callejon saw them beat Chievo 3-1 on Saturday and get their title challenge back on track after a three-game mini-slump.

Maurizio Sarri’s side are level on 61 points with reigning champions Juventus after a winning a hugely entertaining encounter in which Chievo, who stay 11th on 34 points, more than played their part and opened the scoring with just over a minute on the clock through Nicola Rigoni.

Napoli also maintain their five-point lead over third-placed Roma, who briefly closed the gap to two with a thumping 4-1 win over Fiorentina in Rome on Friday.

After winning for the first time in nearly a month, Napoli now await the result of Juventus’ trip to Atalanta on Sunday.

“We wanted another type of performance today after drawing two games,” said Callejon.

“I think we did that, we worked as a team. Now we’re top, we’ll wait and see for tomorrow, but if we carry on like this we’ll go far.”

Rigoni silenced a rowdy San Paolo stadium when he robbed the dozing Chiriches and drilled past unfortunate Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina, who slipped just as he dived to save the Chievo midfielder’s shot.

Napoli looked affronted by the cheek of the away side, and Higuain swiftly calmed the home fans’ nerves by nipping in front of Bostjan Cesar to meet Faouzi Ghoulam’s low sixth-minute pass and take this season’s remarkable tally to 26 goals in 28 league games.

Napoli created a hatful of chances and should have been further ahead way before Chiriches’ redeemed himself by meeting Jorginho’s whipped cross with close-range header seven minutes before the break.

Callejon went close twice in the space of a minute, first meeting another pinpoint Ghoulam cross only to see his 26th-minute shot blocked, then weakly shooting straight at Chievo keeper Albano Bizzarri when set clean through by the lively Lorenzo Insigne, who missed a golden opportunity of his own when he sliced wide just four minutes after Napoli took the lead.

Napoli wasted more chances in the second half, with Higuain smashing the crossbar in the 66th minute, but Spaniard Callejon finally sealed the three points with 20 minutes to go when he tucked home Allan’s drilled cross.

In Saturday’s early game Sampdoria eased their relegation fears by hammering Hellas Verona 3-0 with goals from Roberto Soriano, Antonio Cassano and Lazaros Christodoulopoulos in the first half an hour.

The comfortable win sees Samp up to 13th on 31 points and leaves Verona rock bottom of Serie A, nine points from safety.

By AFP

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