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Soccer: Napoli sweep back into title race

Higuain brace helps Benitez's men to 4-2 win at Lazio

03 December, 19:37
Soccer: Napoli sweep back into title race (By Denis Greenan).

(ANSA) - Rome, December 3 - Napoli swept back into the title race with an impressive 4-2 win at Lazio Monday night, ending a glum spell of two Serie A and one Champions League defeats.

A stunning brace from 40-million-euro closed-season signing from Real Madrid, Gonzalo 'El Pipita' Higuain, and goals from Goran Pandev and Jose Callejon lifted Rafa Benitez's men to within three points of second-placed AS Roma.

Juventus are top of the table after six straight wins on 37 points.

Early pace-setters Roma, who have earned four successive draws after a record start of 10 wins, have 34. Napoli Takes Off Again was the headline in La Gazzetta dello Sport over a story that said: "Higuain sounds the charge, the Azzurri are now just three behind Roma".

"Higuain, lucky the club that has him. He's the one that makes the difference and boosts Napoli after three consecutive defeats.

"Two goals, the ninth and 10th in his first fantastic Italian season, and a superb performance that carved a hole in Lazio," Italy's top-selling paper raved.

"El Pipita is back, at night, as it was the last time he scored except from the penalty spot, at San Siro on September 22 (in a 2-1 victory over AC Milan).

"He hadn't scored a goal from open play since then.

"There was only the penalty brace against Torino (in a 2-0 win) at the San Paolo at the end of October.

"Higuain felt the responsibility more than the others, during the lean spell recently.

"He knew that without his feats it would be hard for Napoli to get back into the scudetto race," La Gazzetta said.

Higuain was quoted as saying: "The long goalless stretch didn't weigh me down too much, since I knew Benitez had full confidence in me.

"But this brace has regenerated me".

Talking to Sky Sport Italia, the Argentina striker said: "It was a crucial fixture for us.

"We didn't want to get distanced at the top of the table.

I'm happy for myself but also for the team".

Benitez said: "It was a difficult match for us, we had to show character and determination and we did in the end. "This is how we should play every match".

Higuain, 25, joined Napoli in July after five seasons at Real where he scored 107 goals in 190 games.

He has 35 Argentina caps and has scored 20 goals for his country.