Without 'Kvara,' Napoli gets 10th straight Serie A win

ROME (AP) — Even without its most exciting player, Napoli is still finding ways to win.

With dribbling wizard Khvicha Kvaratskhelia out with back pain, Hirving Lozano scored one goal and set up another as the Serie A leader beat visiting Empoli 2-0 on Tuesday to extend its winning streak to 10 matches in the Italian league.

The victory moved Napoli nine points clear of defending champion AC Milan, which was visiting relegation-threatened Cremonese later.

It also ended a three-match losing streak against Empoli in Serie A for Napoli.

Kvaratskhelia, the Georgia winger known as “Kvara,” also missed a win over then second-place Atalanta this past weekend, after scoring six goals and assisting on five more in the opening 12 rounds.

Napoli also wasn't slowed by an injury layoff for Serie A's leading scoring Victor Osimhen (eight goals) earlier this season.

Midway through the second half at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, Osimhen earned a penalty and Lozano converted from the spot.

Lozano then drew a foul from Empoli defender Sebastiano Luperto, who picked up his second yellow card — leaving Empoli with 10 men.

Lozano — preparing to play for Mexico at the World Cup — was again involved with strong work down the right flank, muscling his way past defenders to provide a cross that Piotr Zieliński redirected in with one touch in the 88th.

With Zieliński having come on early in the second half, it marked Napoli’s ninth goal off the bench this season.

It’s the third time in club history that Napoli has won 10 straight after runs of 13 in 2017 and 10 in 2017-18 — both under Maurizio Sarri.

The southern club is chasing its first Serie A title since Maradona led the Partenopei to its only Italian league championships in 1987 and 1990.

Also, Udinese and Spezia drew 1-1, with both clubs extending their winless streaks in the league to seven matches.

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Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf

Andrew Dampf, The Associated Press