As their first title hopes in two decades begin to win, Napoli upped and overcompensated in the Serie A, routing Bologna by 6-0.
With a 9-point difference between second-placed Napoli and first placed Juventus, the Old Lady of Turin could have won a fifth straight domestic title if Napoli were defeated. And so, Napoli lives to fight another day as they trimmed the gap to six, for 24 hours at least.
But Dries Mertens and Manolo Gabbiadini kept the competition going as the former scores a hat-trick while the latter took a brace in the demolition. David Lopez rounded of by netting a lucky one by the end of the game.
Gabbiadini fired home from the centre of the box from Mertens’s pass after just 10 minutes. He doubled Napoli’s advantage form the penalty spot 10 minutes before the break after Kevin Constant had brought down Jose Callejon.
Any chance of a Bologna comeback was snuffed out just before the hour mark when Marek Hamsik teed up Mertens to fire home from the left side of the box.
Omar El Kaddouri teed up Mertens for his second and the Belgian scored his hat-trick two minutes from the end with a rasping drive into the top corner form outside the box.
Lopez had set up Mertens for his third and the Belgian winger returned the favour in the final minute.
Given that the last 3 goals were let in within the space of the last 10 minutes of the game, Bologna boss Roberto Donadoni claimed accountability for the embarrassment.
“We played terribly, I’m the first one who’s responsible. I apologise to the fans and now I want the reaction of men,” he said.
It is even more impressive when considering the fact that Napoli’s top scorer Gonzalo Higuain was still absent as he sits out the last of his three-game ban. So far, Gabbiadini had proved himself a competent replacement for the Argentine while Mertens handled himself just as well in the match.
The win also puts Napoli eight points clear of third-placed Roma, who in turn will be playing Torino mid-week before a cruncher against Napoli next Monday. But it is clear there will be a fight for the second spot and the two teams will not relent easily, since the winner would acquire automatic qualification to the Champions League.