MILAN (Reuters) – Serie A leading pair Napoli and Juventus both won against stubborn opponents from the lower half of the table on Saturday while faltering AS Roma lost at home to Atalanta and Ciro Immobile scored four goals in Lazio’s 5-2 rout of SPAL.
Napoli took over an hour to break through against next-to-bottom Verona before winning 2-0 and Federico Bernardeschi’s second-half goal gave Juve a 1-0 win at Cagliari in a bruising match which saw the Turin side lose Paulo Dybala to injury.
Elsewhere, bottom club Benevento, who failed to win in their first 18 games, made it two in a row by beating Sampdoria 3-2 while Torino’s new coach Walter Mazzarri enjoyed a winning start as they beat Bologna 3-0.
Napoli, aiming to stop Juventus’ run of six successive titles, lead with 51 points from 20 games with Juve one point behind as the league heads into a two-week break.
Inter Milan, winless in their last five league games after Friday’s 1-1 draw at Fiorentina, are third on 42 points while Lazio moved up to fourth (40) ahead of Roma (39).
Napoli breached stubborn Verona after 65 minutes when Kalidou Koulibaly headed in from a corner and Jose Callejon volleyed home Lorenzo Insigne’s cross.
“We created plenty of chances without ever losing our lucidity and we conceded nothing to our opponents,” said Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri. “Our application was excellent and there were plenty of good moves.”
Dybala and Bernardeschi both hit the woodwork for Juventus in the first half while Wojciech Szczesny denied Cagliari with two stunning saves.
Dybala limped off with a possible thigh strain in the second half. Eventually, though, Douglas Costa beat two defenders on the right and sent over a low cross which Bernardeschi turned in from close range.
Immobile took his tally to 20 in the league with his haul against SPAL, scoring a hat-trick of opportunist goals between the 19th and 41st minutes and adding another five minutes into the second half.
Luis Alberto got Lazio off the mark in the fifth minute, wriggling through the defence to score a brilliant individual goal, before Mirko Antenucci levelled with a penalty three minutes later.
Antenucci also scored SPAL’s other goal in the 31st minute.
Roma, who dropped Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan for indiscipline, fell two goals behind against Atalanta after only 20 minutes.
Andreas Cornelius and Marten de Roon stunned the Stadio Olimpico, although De Roon was harshly sent off for a second bookable offence on the stroke of halftime.
Edin Dzeko’s goal in the 56th minute was all Roma could manage in reply.
Lorenzo De Silvestri headed Torino in front in the 38th minute, as Mazzarri took his place on the bench 48 hours after replacing the sacked Sinisa Mihajlovic, before a controversial start to the second half.
Bologna’s Simone Verdi went down in the area and was booked for diving but the referee changed his mind and awarded a penalty after consulting with the video assistant referee (VAR).
However, Erick Pulgar’s spot kick was saved by Salvatore Sirigu and Torino went on to score further goals through M’Baye Niang and Iago Falque.
The VAR was also used at AC Milan who had a goal chalked off for a foul by Franck Kessie.
However, they were already in front by then after Crotone goalkeeper Alex Cordaz punched an attempted clearance straight at Leonardo Bonucci and the ball rebounded in.
Massimo Coda hit the woodwork twice before scoring a brace for Benevento as they came from behind to beat Sampdoria.
(Writing by Brian Homewood in Bern; Editing by Christian Radnedge)