Dries Mertens scored twice as Napoli stayed in the hunt for a UEFA Champions League spot by coming from behind to beat relegated Cesena 3-2 in Serie A on Monday.
Rafael Benitez served a one-match touchline ban for remarks made after a 2-2 draw with Parma last weekend and watched his side make hard work of securing the three points they needed to remain in contention for third place.
Gregoire Defrel stunned the Stadio San Paolo faithful by opening the scoring for second-bottom Cesena after 15 minutes and struck again in first-half stoppage time after Mertens and Manolo Gabbiadini – selected ahead of Gonzalo Higuain – put Napoli in front.
Mertens set up Gabbiadini’s goal and the Belgium winger rounded off an impressive individual display by grabbing the winner 12 minutes into the second half.
Victory for Napoli went some way to softening the blow of their UEFA Europa League semi-final defeat to Dnipro last week and leaves them three points behind third-placed Lazio ahead of a trip to champions Juventus next weekend.
Fiorentina also responded to their Europa League exit at the hands of Sevilla with a victory as crisis club Parma were consigned to a 3-0 defeat at Stadio Artemio Franchi.
The Florence outfit remain on course to secure a place in Europe’s secondary club competition after goals from Gonzalo Rodriguez, Alberto Gilardino and Mohamed Salah moved them back above Genoa into fifth spot.
Coach Vincenzo Montella had a swipe at the club’s fans after the defeat to Sevilla, saying his side deserved more respect and they have now won three Serie A games in a row to ensure European qualification remains in their hands.
Defeat for Parma came on another grim day in which their administrators announced they have yet to receive any offers for the beleaguered club, and as a result will reduce the asking price to €11.25million.
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