Sports / Soccer

Higuain proves to be double trouble for Milan

By Agence France-Presse in Milan (China Daily) Updated: 2015-12-02 07:52

Gonzalo Higuain scored both goals as Napoli toppled 10-man Inter Milan 2-1 in a spectacular clash at San Paolo stadium on Monday to take over top spot in the Serie A standings.

Inter traveled south for the first big away test of what it hopes will be a title-winning campaign, but with just a two-point cushion on a Napoli side that has not lost since the opening day of the season.

Inter was shell-shocked by the lightning start of Maurizio Sarri's men and its hopes of staying on top suffered a blow when Yuto Nagatomo saw red a minute before the break.

But Inter regrouped and Adem Ljajic reduced arrears on the hour with a fine individual strike. Yet, despite a battling finish that saw the visitors hit the woodwork twice, it wasn't enough to stop Napoli going a point clear at the top for the first time this season.

Inter drops to second with Fiorentina, held 1-1 at Sassuolo earlier on Monday, a point further off the pace in third.

Higuain and Napoli's players milked the applause at an appreciative San Paolo and the Argentina striker dedicated taking his league-leading tally for the season to 12 goals to the city and the fans.

"It's a magic night. I'm happy for the fans, for the team and for the people of Napoli," Higuain said.

Higuain proves to be double trouble for Milan

"I think we deserve it; it's not often we're in the lead. The season is still long, but we have to capitalize on going top."

Roma's stunning 2-0 home loss to Atalanta has left embattled Rudi Garcia's side in fourth at four points behind Napoli, with champion Juventus now up to fifth; seven points off the pace.

Napoli opened at breakneck speed and a panicky Inter was made to pay for Jeison Murillo's flubbed clearance on the edge of the area when the ball found its way to Higuain via a deft touch from Jose Callejon.

The Argentine was left in space on the right and coolly volleyed past goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.

Nagatomo, who had earlier been cautioned for a foul on Callejon, was given his marching orders, rather harshly, when he was cautioned for a second time after sliding in late to challenge Allan, who was left writhing on the ground.

Inter Milan manager Roberto Mancini hit out at the officiating when he said: "Nagatomo didn't deserve his first yellow card, Callejon simulated the foul. The red card that sent Nagatomo off for a half-foul was decisive.

"Without the red, we wouldn't have lost."

But when asked about Inter's biggest tormentor, Mancini didn't hide: "Higuain's an amazing striker. You give him half a ball and he scores."

Mancini introduced fullback Alex Telles for striker Mauro Icardi but Napoli soon added to its tally.

Higuain was unstoppable as he ran on to Raul Albiol's powerful header and outsprinted Inter's centerbacks to smash his finish past Handanovic.

Higuain's 12th league goal this season took him clear of Sampdoria striker Eder.

Inter reduced the deficit minutes later when Ljajic fired low into the near bottom corner through a crowd of defenders.

Inter almost caused a sensation during injury time when a Stevan Jovetic header bounced off the post.

On the follow-up, Reina scrambled to tip Miranda's point-blank shot off the other upright.

Earlier, title-chasing Fiorentina spurned the chance to go top after a 1-1 draw at Sassuolo.

Borja Valero broke the deadlock after five minutes but Fiorentina was made to pay for a series of misses when Sergio Floccari headed home the leveler three minutes before the interval.

Fiorentina coach Paulo Sousa said his side was "tired" after a 2-2 Europa League draw at FC Basel last week.

"I'm disappointed, we paid for our efforts last Thursday and after the interval Sassuolo moved up a gear.

"We missed the chance for 2-0, then in the second half we got tired and lost concentration."

(China Daily 12/02/2015 page22)

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