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Napoli survive SPAL scare, El Shaarawy lifts Roma

Milan (AFP) – Napoli battled past newcomers SPAL 3-2 on Saturday for a sixth straight win to remain top of Serie A as AS Roma cruised past Udinese 3-1.

Maurizio Sarri’s side have a maximum 18 points from six games to sit top with Juventus looking to join them later Saturday when they clash against city rivals Torino.

Roma move up to provisional fourth as Stephan El Shaarawy bagged a first-half brace for a third straight Serie A win.

But despite sitting 15th in the league SPAL proved to be more than a match for high-flying Napoli.

Pasquale Schiattarella opened the scoring after 13 minutes for the hosts after Mirco Antenucci beat Kalidou Koulibaly to pass on to the player who hails from Naples.

But just a minute later Lorenzo Insigne had pulled Napoli level.

In a dramatic second half Jose Callejon sprung the offside trap to head in on 71 minutes for Napoli before Federico Viviani curled a free kick over the wall to make it 2-2 for SPAL six minutes later.

But Faouzi Ghoulam’s goal on 83 minutes proved too much for the side from Emilia Romagna with a great solo run from midfield stealing a victory.

“They created some problems, but we were good at staying united and believing until the end,” said Insigne.

“We struggled, but the important thing in games like this is to get the result and learn from our mistakes.”

Napoli now prepare to host Feyenoord in Champions League action on Tuesday bouyed by having scored 22 goals in six championship games.

– El Shaarawy brace –

Earlier Italian forward El Shaarawy scored twice after Edin Dzeko’s 12th-minute opener, as Roma, with a game in hand, move up to fourth with 12 points from five games.

Coach Eusebio Di Francesco said he was delighted that the pieces were beginning to fit into his jigsaw after early criticism of his tactics.

“I see the lads are ready to do what I ask,” said Di Francesco. “El Shaarawy is an ideal forward for my system.

“I saw an excellent team movement. It’s a pity we conceded that goal, and we could have scored a few more, but were not determined enough. I can’t help but be satisfied with my team.”

Luigi Delneri’s visitors were struggling from the outset at the Stadio Olimpico with Dzeko on hand for the opener andhis sixth goal of the season after Radja Nainggolan pushed his way through a porous Udinese defence.

Dzeko rolled in a cross for El Shaarawy’s first after half an hour with a blunder by Udinese’s Danish defender Jens Stryger Larsen giving the player nicknamed ‘The Little Pharaoh’ his second just before the break.

Diego Perotti had a chance to make it 4-0 late in the game but fired his spot-kick off target with Stryger Larsen getting one back after his earlier misfortune beating the offside trap to score a consolation goal in the final minutes.

It was a confidence-boosing performance for Di Francesco’s side ahead of their midweek Champions League trip to Qarabag in Azerbaijan.

But for Udinese the nightmare start to the season continued as they fell to a fifth defeat in six matches.

“We have had a complicated calendar and teams like Roma and Milan hurt you if you give them the ball,” said Delneri.

“Football also takes a bit of luck. We did not have much of this,” he added. “We also need to improve our attitude. Roma today showed great personality and great team play.”

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