Tag Archives: Dries Mertens

Serie A: Napoli concedes early but wins to stay on top of table

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Dries Mertens scored twice as Napoli beat Bologna 3-1 to reclaim top spot in the Serie A table from reigning champions Juventus.

Napoli needed a quick response as Juventus had managed to overtake them the day before, but things did not go according to plan when former Inter Milan striker Rodrigo Palacio gave Bologna a first-minute lead instead.

However, Napoli did not have their work cut out for them as Bologna defender Ibrahima Mbaye soon obliged with the equaliser as he put through his own net in comedy fashion just four minutes later.

Adam Masina then helped Napoli further by fouling Jose Callejon to concede a penalty that Mertens tucked away eight minutes before the break and just before the hour, the Belgian winger turned home an assist from Lorenzo Insigne.

The result meant that Napoli remains just one point above Juventus, who returned to second place with a 2-0 win against a Chievo team who were reduced to nine men.

They saw the dismissal of Samuel Bastien, who was given marching orders early in the 37th minute for a second bookable but unnecessary offence, and then lost Fabrizio Cacciatore too after 60 minutes when he vehemently complained he’d been fouled while heading at Wojciech Szczesny.

His bizarre protests, which included standing on the touchline with his hands behind his back in an apparent ‘handcuff’ gesture, earned the striker a straight red card.

The clear advantage in numbers meant that Chievo, who had been able to frustrate the visitors up until then finally conceded when Sami Khedira struck in the 67th minute, before Gonzalo Higuaín headed in a second with two minutes remaining.

Internazionale ends perfect Napoli start with goalless draw

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Internazionale ended Napoli’s perfect start to Serie A after holding them to a thrilling 0-0 draw on the road, themselves being the only other unbeaten side in the Italian top flight.

Napoli, who dropped points for the first time this campaign, were the better side but could not find a way past Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, who was kept busier than his Napoli counterpart Pepe Reina.

It was also the first time that Napoli failed to win a Serie A fixture since April but they remain top, two points above Inter and three above Juventus and Lazio.

Inter had plenty confidence after Mauro Icardi’s hat trick helped them win last week’s derby against city rivals Milan, but they hadn’t won in Naples in 20 years.

Starting on the front foot, Napoli almost went in front but Handanovic pulled off a stunning double save to deny José Callejón and then keep out Dries Mertens’ rebound from point-blank range.

Handanovic then added to his saves by palming away Lorenzo Insigne’s close-range header and a powerful drive from substitute Piotr Zielinski.

Later, the Milan club got their first chance went close shortly before half-time but Reina did well to fingertip Borja Valero’s close-range attempt over the bar. Mertens should have won the match for Napoli in the final minute but Handanovic was again on hand to keep out his close-range volley.

Meanwhile, Juventus maintained their distance against the leaders although being reduced to ten-men early on.

Mario Mandzukic was sent off early on as he was shown an instant second yellow card for appealing against a first booking, after Stipe Perica gave Udinese a shock lead.

However, Samir’s own goal levelled for Juve, and Sami Khedira headed Juve ahead even before Mandzukic’s dismissal.

Although Danilo levelled for Udinese two minutes after half-time, Daniele Rugani put Juve ahead again and Khedira scored twice to complete a hat-trick before Miralem Pjanic’s last-minute strike.

Juventus held by Napoli as fans jeered Higuain

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Gonzalo Higuain was jeered on his first return to Napoli, where Serie A leaders Juventus were held to a 1-1 draw.

Higuain, 29, left Stadio San Paolo in a stormy transfer affair last summer to join Napoli’s title rivals Juve for €90 million on the back of a 36-goal season.

The Argentinian is expected to feature in Naples’ Stadio San Paolo again for a Coppa Italia semifinal showdown on Wednesday, although he was largely anonymous in the face of an extremely hostile reception from his former fan base.

Sami Khedira helped matters by boosting Juve into a seventh-minute lead with an inspiring one-two with Miralem Pjanic.

But Napoli, the better side throughout the game, grabbed a deserved equaliser through captain Marek Hamsik on the hour as the Slovakian converted Dries Mertens’s reverse pass.

Another back-pass, this time with Kwadwo Asamoah playing the supplier, saw Mertens beat goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon — but the Belgian found the woodwork from a tight angle and Juve was able to hold on.

The draw gap between the clubs remains 10 points, meaning Napoli stand little chance of catching the Bianconeri over the eight Serie games left this season. Only Roma, who won 2-0 against Empoli retain a fringe chance of denying Juve a sixth straight Scudetto after cutting their lead to five.

Napoli demolishes Bologna to keep Serie A hopes alive

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Napoli demolishes Bologna to keep Serie A hopes alive

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.