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June 22, 2017

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Napoli rout last-place Pescara in Serie A to move within two points of top place

ROME -- Chasing its first title since Diego Maradona played for the club, Napoli thrashed 10-man Pescara 5-1 Sunday to move back within two points of Serie A leader Juventus.

Gokhan Inler and Edinson Cavani each scored twice and Marek Hamsik also found the target for Napoli. Iceland midfielder Birkir Bjarnason scored for last-place Pescara in the 18th minute to briefly make it 2-1, and the match turned back in Napoli's favor when Pescara defender Antonio Bocchetti was sent off for tripping Cavani in the 57th.

Also Sunday, Inter Milan struggled to beat Palermo 1-0 with an own goal from Santiago Garcia in the 74th.

Juventus, which beat 10-man Torino 3-0 in the Turin derby Saturday, has 35 points. Napoli is next with 33 and Inter is third with 31.

Maradona led Napoli to its only two Serie A titles, in 1987 and 1990.

Napoli finished third two seasons ago, but struggled to balance domestic duties with the Champions League last season and fell to fifth.

"There's still a long way to go," Hamsik said. "We face Inter next, so it's going to be a matchup of two squads that are in form."

Fiorentina extended its unbeaten streak to nine matches following a 2-2 draw with Sampdoria, with Stevan Savic scoring his first two goals since transferring from Manchester City. The Tuscan squad is tied with Lazio for fourth on 29 points. Lazio beat Parma 2-1 with goals from Giuseppe Biava and Miroslav Klose.

Also, sixth-place Roma came back to beat Siena 3-1 with two goals from Mattia Destro and one from Simone Perrotta.

In other matches, it was: Udinese 4, Cagliari 1; Bologna 2, Atalanta 1; and Genoa 2, Chievo Verona 4.

At Napoli's San Paolo stadium, Inler gave the hosts the lead in the ninth minute with a shot from beyond the area and Hamsik doubled the lead in the 15th after getting past a defender inside the area.

However, Bjarnason scored with a textbook header and the score remained 2-1 at halftime.

After Bocchetti was sent off, Cavani converted the ensuing penalty, then added another goal — his 10th league score of the season — in the 63rd by redirecting a cross from Hamsik.

In the 78th, Inler blasted in his second goal with another powerful shot from beyond the area that ricocheted in off the post.

"I was very angry at the end of the first half, because after we went up by two goals we played inattentively and risked going into halftime level," Napoli manager Walter Mazzarri said. "In the second half, the guys understood and things went better."

At the San Siro, Inter struggled without creative forward Antonio Cassano, who served the second match in a two-game ban for insulting the referee. Also, playmaker Wesley Sneijder was again left off the squad as his dispute with club management persists.

Diego Milito threatened often for Inter, but it was 10 minutes after the Argentina forward was substituted that the Milan side scored, with Garcia redirecting a pass from Inter's Andrea Ranocchia into his own goal in a failed clearance.

In Florence, Fiorentina was without both Stevan Jovetic and Luca Toni. Still, Savic put the Viola ahead in the 21st with a header. Nenad Krsticic equalized for Sampdoria in the 48th with an expert feint and shot from the edge of the area, before an own goal from Gonzalo Rodriguez in the 72nd gave Samp the lead. However, Savic scored with another header in the 75th to earn his side a point.

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