Mazzarri wins on return as Napoli go third

Walter Mazzarri made a winning return as Napoli coach with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Atalanta pushing the champions up to third in Serie A on Saturday.

Eljif Elmas netted the decisive goal 11 minutes from the end at the Gewiss Stadium in Bergamo after Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s headed opener for the away side on the stroke of half-time was levelled by a similar strike from Ademola Lookman.

North Macedonia midfielder Elmas rolled home the winner from substitute Victor Osimhen’s pass following Atalanta goalkeeper Marco Carnesecchi’s poor clearance, making sure that Napoli stayed in Italy’s Champions League positions.

Mazzarri’s team are still seven points behind leaders Inter Milan who travel to Turin on Sunday for the weekend’s big match at second-placed Juventus.

AC Milan will move back above Napoli into third if they beat Fiorentina at the San Siro in Saturday’s late fixture.

Mazzarri returned to Napoli last week after Rudi Garcia was sacked, reprising a role he left just over a decade ago after being the man to take southern Italy’s biggest club back to the upper echelons of Italian football.

The 62-year-old guided Napoli to the 2012 Italian Cup, beating undefeated league champions Juventus in the final to win the club’s first major trophy in over two decades.

And he took three points from Saturday’s even clash, his team recovering from Lookman’s equaliser and being saved from going behind in the 68th minute when Mario Pasalic’s finish was ruled out for Teun Koopmeiners straying offside.

Mazzarri will also be boosted by Osimhen recovering from his hamstring injury in time for Wednesday’s Champions League trip to Real Madrid.

Napoli are second in Group C, four points ahead of Braga, who take on Union Berlin, with two games remaining.

Maurizio Sarri suggested he could quit Lazio after his team fell 2-1 at the division’s bottom team Salernitana, losing thanks to a wonder strike from old boy Antonio Candreva.

Lazio are 10th in Italy’s top flight, on 17 points, following their sixth defeat of what has been a difficult league season after finishing second last term.

“I don’t know if it’s may fault, if I was sure I would leave immediately. But seeing as I can’t work out what’s changed since last season it’s difficult,” Sarri told reporters.

“If it turns out that I’m the problem I’ll take responsibility and I’ll tell the owner to make a change.”

Former Italy winger Candreva smashed in his dipping winner in the 67th minute at the Stadio Arechi after Grigoris Kastanos had levelled Ciro Immobile’s first-half penalty.

Veteran Candreva, 36, played for over four years at Lazio where he won the 2013 Italian Cup in a dramatic final against local rivals Roma — the only major title of his career.

Immobile’s fourth strike of the season made him the first player to score 100 goals away from home in Serie A.

Filippo Inzaghi’s Salernitana are two points behind Empoli who sit just outside the relegation zone and host Sassuolo on Sunday afternoon.


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