Serie A: Mertens' two assists lead Napoli to win at AC Milan

Saturday January 21st, 2017

MILAN (AP) — Inspired by Diego Maradona's visit to training, Dries Mertens led Napoli to a 2-1 victory at AC Milan in Serie A on Saturday.

Mertens, who has often been compared to Maradona, provided two sublime assists to help Napoli race into a 2-0 lead, with less than 10 minutes gone at San Siro.

The 29-year-old Mertens also had several chances to extend Napoli's lead.

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Juraj Kucka reduced the deficit eight minutes from halftime and Mario Pasalic hit the crossbar but Milan, which had fought back from two goals down at Torino on Monday, couldn't find the equalizer.

Napoli moved level on points with second-placed Roma, which hosts Cagliari on Sunday. Milan remained fifth, seven points further back.

Maradona, who led Napoli to its only two league titles in 1987 and 1990, was in Naples for a theatrical event last week and turned up at Napoli's training session on Wednesday.

Napoli started brightly and had a penalty appeal waved away in the third minute when Mertens went down under Gabriel Paletta's challenge.

It took the lead three minutes later as Lorenzo Insigne latched onto a crossfield ball from Mertens and curled into the top right corner.

Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who was making his 50th Serie A appearance at the age of just 17, got a hand to the ball but couldn't prevent it from going in.

It got worse for Milan in the 9th as Mertens befuddled Gustavo Gomez and threaded the ball through for Jose Callejon to fire in from a tight angle, and through Donnarumma's legs.

The same two players almost combined for another goal in the 14th but Donnarumma rushed off his line in time.

Mertens should have scored himself on the half-hour but he prodded a weak effort into Donnarumma's arms after being sent clear by Allan.

Milan almost got back into the match in the 35th but Gomez headed Giacomo Bonaventura just past the right upright.

The home side did reduce the deficit two minutes later as a defensive mix-up between Jorginho and Lorenzo Tonelli allowed Kucka to race forward and fire into the bottom right corner.

Milan almost leveled two minutes into the second half but Mario Pasalic's header came off the crossbar.

Insigne went close to scoring a stunning goal shortly before the hour mark as he attempted to lob Donnarumma from midfield with his audacious chip sailing narrowly over the bar.

Mertens twice went close but he was denied by Donnarumma in the 70th, following a cross from Marek Hamsik, while Bonaventura sprinted back to tackle the Belgium international three minutes later, when he was clear on goal.

Donnarumma almost scored in stoppage time as he went up for a free kick but he headed it at Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

There was a touching moment from the Milan fans in the first half as they unveiled a banner in support of "the population of central Italy," which was hit by several earthquakes and an avalanche this week.

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CHIEVO VERONA 0, FIORENTINA 3

Fiorentina romped to victory in Verona, securing its second win over Chievo in as many weeks.

Paulo Sousa's side had narrowly beaten Chievo 1-0 in the Italian Cup on Jan. 11, thanks to a dubious, last-gasp penalty from Federico Bernardeschi.

There was no doubt about the result this time.

Cristian Tello took advantage of a defensive error to fire Fiorentina in front in the 18th and Chievo also gifted the visitors the second goal. Fabrizio Cacciatore needlessly tripped Federico Chiesa and Khouma Babacar converted the resulting penalty seven minutes into the second half.

Chiesa scored his first goal in Serie A with practically the last kick of the match.

Fiorentina moved up to eighth, while Chievo remained 12th.

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