Mertens brace keeps Napoli top


MILAN — Dries Mertens scored a brace as Napoli bounced back from a goal down to reclaim top spot in Serie A Sunday with a 3-1 home win over Bologna.

Napoli restored its one-point advantage over champion Juventus which went top after Sami Khedira and Gonzalo Higuain scored in a 2-0 win at nine-man Chievo Saturday.

In Naples, it proved to be a battle with Rodrigo Palacio nodding Bologna ahead after 25 seconds before an Ibrahima Mbaye own goal four minutes later pulled the host back at their Stadio San Paolo.

Mertens edged Napoli ahead on 37 minutes with a penalty awarded for a foul on Jose Callejon. The Belgian then claimed his 13th goal of the season with a spectacular curling effort on 59 minutes.

Maurizio Sarri's side has 57 points from 22 games, one more than Juventus. Inter Milan missed a chance to move third with a frustrating 1-1 draw at promoted SPAL.

Inter is two points behind Lazio which can move further ahead when it plays AC Milan at San Siro later Sunday. Roma is just three points behind Inter in fifth before playing at Sampdoria.

It was Inter's seventh consecutive league game without a win.

Alberto Paloschi headed in a last-gasp equalizer to grab a precious point for SPAL after Inter had taken the lead on 48 minutes when defender Francesco Vicari turned the ball into his own net.

SPAL goalkeeper Alex Meret was unworried by an Inter side which has not won since December 3 and was uninspiring in Ferrara with recent arrivals Rafinha and Lisandro Lopez on the bench.

Despite trailing for most of the second half, SPAL proved dogged and its pressing paid off when former Milan forward Paloschi turned in a Mirco Antenucci cross on the stroke of full-time.

Spalletti introduced on-loan Barcelona midfielder Rafinha for the final minutes of the game but the Brazilian failed to lift his team against a SPAL side still in the relegation zone.

Elsewhere struggling Verona shocked Fiorentina 4-1 in Tuscany to end a run of four consecutive defeats, as Udinese moved up to eighth with a 1-0 win at Genoa despite Samir's sending off with a second half goal from Valon Behrami sealing the three points.

Crotone and Cagliari drew 1-1 in a relegation battle as Torino thrashed bottom team Benevento 3-0, with Vid Belec sent off for a kick on M'Baye Niang. — AFP