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Simeone hat-trick buries Napoli as Juventus close in on seventh heaven


Milan (AFP) – Kalidou Koulibaly was sent off early as Napoli succumbed to a Giovanni Simeone hat-trick in a shock 3-0 defeat at Fiorentina that edged Juventus closer to a seventh successive Serie A title on Sunday.

With just three games left, Juventus have a four-point lead on closest challengers Napoli and could wrap up yet another ‘Scudetto’ next weekend.

Koulibaly, labelled a hero when he scored the last-gasp header that kept Napoli’s ambitions alive with a 1-0 win over Juventus in Turin last week, turned villain in Florence after he was sent off after just eight minutes.

Argentina forward Simeone — the son of Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone — scored all three goals in a spectacular display to keep Fiorentina’s Europa League hopes alive.

Juventus battled past 10-man Inter Milan in a San Siro thriller on Saturday to prevail 3-2 thanks to two late goals in three minutes.

Massimiliano Allegri’s champions host Bologna on Saturday and will be assured of a seventh straight title if Napoli fail to win at home against Torino on Sunday.

Napoli never recovered from Koulibaly’s expulsion, the towering Sengalese defender inititally shown a yellow card for kicking out at Simeone as he charged towards goal.

But a video assistant referee (VAR) review at the Stadio Franchi in Florence upgraded the yellow to red, with a free-kick given instead of a penalty.

Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri replaced midfielder Jorginho with central defender Lorenzo Tonelli.

But Napoli struggled to contain their rivals, Simeone breaking the deadlock by firing through the legs of goalkeeper Pepe Reina after 34 minutes.

Simeone pounced to fire in the second on 62 minutes after the ball initially bounced off Elseid Hysaj and Reina cleared with his leg.

The 22-year-old completed his hat-trick three minutes into injury time to claim his 13th goal this season.

“My father will be very happy with the hat-trick!” said Simeone as Fiorentina moved to within four points of the Europa League places.

– AC Milan back winning –

Earlier, AC Milan maintained their Europa League hopes with a 2-1 win at Bologna.

Milan had dropped to seventh after a six-game winless streak including last week’s shock reverse to bottom club Benevento.

But first-half goals from Hakan Calhanoglu and Giacomo Bonaventura ensured Milan — one point behind sixth-placed Atalanta, who beat Genoa 3-1 — keep touch with the Europa League places. 

“It was not easy after the week we’ve just had, the tension inside (the club’s training complex) Milanello after the defeat to Benevento,” said Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso.

“We hadn’t won a match in 40 days and have done everything to complicate life.

“We’ve got to get back on our feet and some players who are struggling physically. We’ve got Verona next, then the Italian Cup final (May 9) against Juventus and then Atalanta. We can’t drop points.”

Turkish midfielder Calhanoglu latched onto a Patrick Cutrone cross after 34 minutes at the Stadio Dall’Ara.

Riccardo Orsolini thought he had equalised but the VAR disallowed the goal for a Rodrigo Palacio handball in the build-up.

Bonaventura doubled Milan’s advantage going into the break with Sebastien De Maio heading in for Bologna after 73 minutes.

Saturday’s defeat damages Inter’s hopes of Champions League football next season as they stay fifth behind Roma, third after beating Chievo 4-1, and Lazio who play Torino in Sunday’s late match.

In the relegation battle, SPAL moved out of the bottom three win a 3-1 win against Verona, who now look destined for the drop.

A late Bacary Sagna goal grabbed a 3-3 win for Benevento against Udinese, who had looked set to earn a first win under new coach Igor Tudor after a 12-match losing streak cost predecessor Massimo Oddo his job during the week.

Chievo, whose coach Rolando Maran was fired on Sunday, drop into the relegation zone with just three games to play.

Meanwhile, Marcello Trotta and Nigerian forward Simy scored a brace each as Crotone beat Sassuolo 4-1 to move away from the drop zone.

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