Viola, Inter tighten Europa grip, Higuain celebrates hat-trick

13 April 2014 04:47

Fiorentina dominated 10-man Verona in an eight-goal thriller while Inter Milan stunned 10-man Sampdoria 4-0 in Genoa as both sides tightened their grip on Serie A's two Europa League places on Sunday.

Elsewhere Napoli resisted a fightback from 10-man Lazio to prevail 4-2 thanks to an injury-time goal from Gonzalo Higuain which gave the Argentine striker a hat-trick.

Ciro Immobile, meanwhile, launched the fightback for Torino after Alberto Gilardino's 85th minute opener for Genoa with an injury-time leveller that took the striker top of the league scoring charts with 19 goals.

Fellow striker Alessio Cerci added Torino's second less than a minute later to seal a late win which kept the 'Granate', like several other teams, in the hunt for a place in next season's Europa League.

Leaders Juventus are not in action until Monday when they travel to Udinese looking to restore their eight-point lead on second-placed Roma, whose 3-1 win at home to Atalanta on Saturday reduced their arrears to five points.

Napoli remain third but thanks to Roma's win Rafael Benitez's men are no closer to the second automatic qualifying spot for the Champions League.

The Azzurri are 12 points adrift of the Giallorossi and still nine points ahead of fourth-placed Fiorentina in the first Europa spot.

Higuain, who had not scored since March 17 and had recently been substituted several times by an unhappy Benitez, told Mediaset: "I'm happy for me and for Napoli, especially after our defeat to Parma (last week).

"Luck was on our side but we managed to overturn the score and for that I'm happy."

With all three Champions League spots virtually tied up with five games remaining, the battle is raging in Serie A for places in Europe's second-tier club competition.

Fiorentina suffered a blow on the quarter hour when Jacopo Sala sent a flying header past Neto after the 'keeper had pushed Juan Iturbe's angled drive into the path of the midfielder.

But that only served to awaken Vincenzo Montella's men.

Juan Cuadrado levelled on the half hour and after Alberto Aquilani gave Fiorentina the lead Borja Valero made it 3-1 after tapping home from close range.

- Icardi left laughing -

Midfielder Marco Donadel saw red for hauling down Cuadrado but Verona reduced arrears five minutes later through a Luca Toni spot-kick, the veteran striker's 17th goal of the campaign.

Fiorentina restored their two-goal cushion when Alessandro Matri beat Rafael from the penalty spot and Aquilani put the match beyond all reach when he tapped home from close range four minutes from time.

Iturbe, however, ran half the length of the pitch to beat Neto with a stunning strike to score a late consolation for Verona.

La Viola coach Montella could not have been happier, telling Sky Sport Italia: "We had a great game, above all in terms of tactics.

"Despite conceding more goals than I would have liked we were always in the game."

Inter's visit to Sampdoria was highly anticipated after a midweek tit-for-tat spat between Maxi Lopez and Inter's Mauro Icardi, who lives with the Samp striker's former girlfriend Wanda Nara and the former couple's two children.

Lopez had slammed his fellow Argentinian for posting pictures of his children, whom he fathered with Nara, in the public domain.

But after Lopez snubbed Icardi at the pre-match handshake, Icardi was left laughing with a brace of goals in a 4-0 rout which saw Inter 'keeper Samir Handanovic stop Lopez's first-half spot-kick and Samp midfielder Eder red-carded for a second bookable offence.

Samp's woes were confounded by the fact Lopez had asked Eder if he could take the penalty.

"I normally take the penalties, but Lopez asked me so I left it to him," the Brazilian striker told Rai 2.

"There are issues between Maxi and Icardi, but I wish he'd scored the penalty."

Elsewhere Alberto Paloschi celebrated a hat-trick for Chievo in a 4-2 over relegation-threatened Livorno, who are third from bottom but three points behind Bologna.

Earlier Sunday Nicolo Cherubin opened the scoring for Bologna on the cusp of half-time but Parma earned a share of the spoils thanks to Raffaele Palladino's 79th minute strike.

Source: AFP