MILAN: Napoli salvaged some pride as they crushed Sassuolo 6-1 on Saturday to consolidate third place in Serie A and bounce back from a miserable run.
Dries Mertens scored twice, while there were also goals from Kalidou Koulibaly, Victor Osimhen, Hirving Lozano and Amir Rrahmani in a rampant display from Napoli, who were 4-0 up after 21 minutes.
Maxime Lopez netted a late consolation for mid-table Sassuolo.
Napoli were battling with the Milan clubs for the Serie A title until recently but a run of two defeats and a draw saw their scudetto bid all but evaporate. The win over Sassuolo left them four points below league leaders AC Milan, who host Fiorentina on Sunday, and four points above Juventus, who entertain bottom club Venezia.
Napoli were still reeling from last week’s match at Empoli, where they were leading 2-0 before three goals in the final 10 minutes saw the home side win 3-2.
They started the match with a point to prove and Koulibaly headed in a corner. The lead was doubled in the 15th minute with another Lorenzo Insigne corner and another header, this time from Osimhen that went in off the underside of the crossbar.
Osimhen set one up just two minutes later. Mertens won the ball in midfield and threaded it to Osimhen, who rolled it across for Lozano to slot in from six yards.
Mertens got on the scoresheet in the 21st and scored again early in the second half following a one-two with Fabián Ruiz.
Rrahmani got Napoli’s sixth, 10 minutes from time.
Sampdoria took a huge step toward securing Serie A safety and could have consigned their city rivals to relegation after a fiercely contested Derby della Lanterna that saw Genoa miss a stoppage-time penalty.
Abdelhamid Sabiri scored the only goal to secure Samp a 1-0 win and help it move eight points clear of the bottom three.
Genoa captain Domenico Criscito was left in tears after seeing his penalty saved by Emil Audero in the sixth minute of stoppage time. The penalty was for a handball by Samp defender Alex Ferrari.
Genoa remained second from bottom, three points from 17th-placed Cagliari and safety.
It could have been worse for Genoa, had not Cagliari lost at home to Hellas Verona 2-1, their seventh defeat in eight matches.
Lazio boosted their chances of qualifying for Europe with a 4-3 win at Spezia. Spezia took the lead three times but Francesco Acerbi netted the winner for Lazio in the final minute.