Napoli are alone at the top of Serie A after Giovanni Simeone’s latest super-sub showing led to a 4-1 win at Cremonese which moved his team two points clear on Sunday.
Unbeaten Napoli had been leading the league on goal difference heading into this weekend’s matches, but they took advantage of Atalanta throwing away a two-goal lead in their 2-2 draw at Udinese with a club-record eighth straight win in all competitions.
Simeone struck Napoli’s second of a tight match with 14 minutes remaining when he met Mario Rui’s deep cross with an unsaveable close-range header.
It was Simeone’s fourth goal in nine matches since arriving from Verona in August—only one of which he has started—after a positive start to life in southern Italy in which he has developed an immediate connection with Napoli supporters.
“I feel a bit like them, a bit Argentine and a bit Italian,” said Simeone to DAZN.
“What counts in football is the quality of the time you have. There have been many times when I’ve not had much time and done well and times when I had plenty of minutes and not done anything.”
The heavy defeat was harsh on spirited Cremonese who bounced back from going behind to a soft penalty scored in the 26th minute by Matteo Politano by levelling through Cyriel Dessers’ first Serie A goal a minute after half-time.
However Massimiliano Alvini’s winless side remain second-bottom on three points following their sixth defeat in their first nine top-flight fixtures since 1996.
Luca Zanimacchia hit the bar in the first half and fluffed some half-chances with Napoli wobbling after Dessers’ leveller, but Simeone broke their spirit and Hirving Lozano and Mathias Olivera put the icing on the cake in stoppage time.
Now coach Luciano Spalletti can turn his attentions to qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League when they host Ajax on Wednesday.
Udinese fight back
Two of Serie A’s model clubs went toe-to-toe in front of 25,000 fans at third-placed Udinese’s Dacia Arena, one of the league’s few modern, club-owned stadiums.
Gerard Deulofeu’s beautiful free-kick in the 67th minute and a header from Nehuen Perez 11 minutes later gave Udinese a draw against Atalanta which left them three points behind Napoli.
Deulofeu skimmed the crossbar late on with another free-kick, while Tolgay Arslan also shot just wide with seconds remaining as Udinese just missed out on their seventh straight win.
Gian Piero Gasperini his team “should be happy” despite the way his 300th match as Atalanta coach ended, his injury-hit team comfortably ahead 11 minutes after half-time through an Ademola Lookman tap-in and Luis Muriel’s penalty.
Roma are a further point back in fifth after struggling to a 2-1 win over 10-man Lecce but are sweating on the condition of match-winner Paulo Dybala.
The Argentina forward injured his left thigh while scoring the winning penalty two minutes after the break and appeared to be in tears on the bench after being replaced by Nemanja Matic seconds later.
Dybala has already scored seven times in his 11 Roma appearances but could miss their Europa League trip to Real Betis on Thursday and a potentially huge clash at Napoli in two weeks’ time.
Monza on the up
Monza’s revival under Raffaele Palladino continued with their third straight win, a comfortable 2-0 success over Spezia which lifted them up to 12th on 10 points.
Palladino’s side are only three points behind their first victims Juventus and one behind Torino, who drew 1-1 with Empoli in Sunday’s early match.
Monza are level on points with 11th-placed Salernitana, who beat struggling Verona 2-1 thanks to a stoppage-time strike from Boulaye Dia which sparked wild celebrations and an on-pitch brawl.
Before a dramatic win in Salerno, owner Danilo Iervolino fuelled rumours Franck Ribery was set to quit the game by confirming the 39-year-old was in talks about a managerial role at the club for when he does retire.
“We will give him a role, whatever he wants, in the timeframe and way that he wants,” said Iervolino.
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