ROME (AP) — A hat trick last weekend. A goal and an assist this weekend to move atop the Serie A scoring chart.
Victor Osimhen put together another strong performance to extend Napoli’s winning streak to nine games in the Italian league with a 2-1 victory over Atalanta in a top-of-the-table clash on Saturday.
“Osimhen has substance, physicality and velocity,” Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti said. “He was a bit tired tonight after playing (four) days ago but he made an impact. He did what he needed to do.”
The victory left Napoli six points clear of defending champion AC Milan, which leapfrogged Atalanta with a 2-1 win over Spezia, which got an equalizer from Daniel Maldini.
Atalanta is eight points back in third.
It also got Napoli going again after being beaten by Liverpool in the Champions League for its first loss across all competitions this season — even though Napoli still won the group.
Atalanta, by contrast, is not playing in Europe this season and had all week to prepare for this game.
Ademola Lookman opened the scoring for Atalanta with a penalty following a handball from Osimhen.
Osimhen redeemed himself four minutes later by equalizing with a towering header after finding space between three defenders for his eighth goal of the season.
In the 35th, Osimhen turned provider when he fought his way past Merih Demiral on the right flank to send in a cross that Elif Elmas redirected in with a deflected shot after faking his way past Atalanta defender Hans Hateboer.
Elmas was a surprise starter at left wing in place of breakout star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, who was ruled out of the trip with “acute lower back pain.” Giacomo Raspadori had widely been expected to start in place of Kvaratskhelia but Spalletti was paid back for selecting Elmas instead.
“Atalanta played a great match, which shows how important it was to come away with three points here,” Spalletti said.
Chasing its first Serie A title since the days when Diego Maradona played for the southern club, Napoli has now beaten three key challengers in Milan, Roma and Atalanta — with games against Empoli and Udinese remaining before the long break for the World Cup.
Napoli won't face Inter Milan and Juventus until January.
MALDINI VS. MALDINI
On loan from the Milan squad that his father and grandfather captained, Daniel Maldini scored for Spezia in front of dad Paolo, Milan’s sporting director.
And what a goal it was.
The 21-year-old Maldini cut inside from the left edge of the area and curled a shot into the far corner for Spezia’s first away goal this season.
It was the second career goal for Maldini in Serie A, having scored against Spezia last season in his first start for Milan.
Olivier Giroud won it for Milan with an acrobatic volley in the 89th minute after Theo Hernández had put the Rossoneri ahead with an expert chest control and volley.
Earlier, Cremonese climbed out of last place with a 2-2 draw at 10th-place Salernitana courtesy of a late equalizer from Davide Ciofani, who turned in the rebound of his penalty kick.
Salernitana defender Matteo Lovato appeared to briefly lose consciousness after knocking heads and was stretchered off.
Also, Empoli beat Sassuolo 1-0 in a mid-table clash with a goal from Tommaso Baldanzi.
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Andrew Dampf, The Associated Press