MILAN (AFP) – Gonzalo Higuain struck a controversial brace including a late penalty in a 2-1 win over Genoa to send Rafael Benitez’s side up to third place in Italy’s Serie A on Monday.
Higuain opened the scoring for the hosts in the seventh minute and fired Napoli back in front from the spot in the 75th minute to cancel out Iago Falque’s 56th minute strike.
Napoli’s 10th win of the campaign left them 13 points behind leaders and champions Juventus but Benitez’s men are now only six behind title challengers Roma and two ahead of both Lazio and Sampdoria.
“It was an important game for us. We wanted to move back up to third place and now we’ve closed the gap on Roma,” Higuain told Sky Sport.
“Mathematically, we can fight for second place and that’s what we plan to do.”
Higuain’s double strike has relaunched his bid for Serie A’s ‘Capocannoniere’ top goalscorer’s award. The Argentinian now has 12 in 20 league games to sit one behind fellow countryman Carlos Tevez of Juventus.
But he added: “It’s nice, but the important thing was to win this game.”
However Genoa had reason to join the growing calls in Italy for the introduction of technology following a number of dubious decisions.
Higuain gave Napoli the perfect start when he nodded past Mattia Perin from close range after the ‘keeper pushed a long-range shot from Jose Callejon into his path.
But replays suggested the Argentinian was at least a yard offside when Callejon unleashed his shot.
Napoli then saw a perfectly good appeal for a penalty waved away despite Facundo Roncaglia sliding in to block a pass with his arm.
The hosts then spurned several chances to double their lead, Dutch midfielder Jonathan De Guzman sending one effort just over the bar before seeing his low drive from close range cleared off the goalline.
Callejon then smacked the crossbar and Genoa were given hope of an upset when Falque controlled well in the area to bear Rafael down low at the ‘keeper’s near post.
Genoa gave M’Baye Niang his debut following his on-loan signing from AC Milan in midweek, the French striker replacing Ioannis Fatfetzidis just after the restart but failing to get power on his sole shot just after the hour mark.
Napoli restored their lead in the 75th minute when Higuain made no mistake from the spot, but the decision – following Juraj Kucka’s slight push the Argentinian – was controversial.