Napoli picked up an important three points on Saturday evening, cruising past AC Milan 3-1 to re-establish a three-point lead over Fiorentina in the final Champions League place. It was a victory they certainly deserved, with a dismal Milan fortunate to escape the Stadio San Paolo without further embarrassment.
The hosts were on top right from the off, with Milan looking like rabbits in headlights in the face of their superb pressing. However, the partenopei's perennially porous defence means they're never far from conceding, and so it proved in the seventh minute. Adel Taarabt opened the scoring with almost his very first touch in a Milan shirt, driving towards goal on the counter before slotting inside the far post.
Unfortunately for the visitors, their bright start proved to be nothing more than a flicker. Gökhan Inler netted an equaliser just a couple of minutes later, with a long-range effort which nicked off Nigel De Jong's shin and looped into Christian Abbiati's top corner. It could've been the first of many, but somehow Milan withstood the ever-increasing first half pressure.
Dries Mertens forced a save from Abbiati from the edge of the area before Gonzalo Higuaín put the ball in the back of the net, only for the goal to be ruled out for offside. On the stroke of halftime Napoli produced an even better opportunity, with Lorenzo Insigne nodding wide after Christian Maggio had smashed the ball against the post.
Milan clung on until the break, but not much longer than that. It took just 10 minutes of the second half before the Neapolitans finally had their second, with a perfect cross from the supreme Inler glanced in by Higuaín. The goal had been a long time coming, and Philippe Mexès' desperate stare at the linesman just about summed up Milan's misery.
The rossoneri never looked like getting back into the game despite being only a goal behind, and Napoli took advantage to cruise to a third through Higuaín inside the final 10 minutes. The substituted Mario Balotelli sobbed on the bench, and the onlooking rossoneri fans can't have felt much better. Clarence Seedorf's task isn't looking any easier.
Napoli: Reina; Ghoulam, Albiol, Fernández, Maggio; Inler (Džemaili 89'), Jorginho; Insigne (Callejón 78'), Hamšík (Behrami 83'), Mertens; Higuaín.
Goals: Inler (11'), Higuaín (56', 83').
AC Milan: Abbiati; Emanuelson (Montolivo 70'), Mexès, Rami, De Sciglio; Essien, De Jong; Taarabt, Robinho (Kaká 46'), Abate; Balotelli (Pazzini 73').
Goals: Taarabt (7').