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Soccer-Higuain helps Napoli shoot down spirited Milan

Reuters

(Adds Benitez quotes)

By Terry Daley

ROME, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Gonzalo Higuain shot Napoli to within three points of second-placed AS Roma after scoring twice in an entertaining 3-1 home victory over AC Milan in Serie A on Saturday.

The Argentine striker is second behind Fiorentina's Giuseppe Rossi in the Serie A scoring charts with 12 for the season.

Higuain's glancing header 11 minutes after the break and tap-in eight minutes from time moved Rafael Benitez's side up to 47 points in third place.

Napoli are three behind Roma, who have a game in hand and await the Rome derby with Lazio on Sunday, but 12 behind leaders and champions Juventus.

"I need to praise the team because with the midweek match against Roma (in the Italian Cup semi-finals) and this one tonight, against two good sides, we played with an intensity and quality I would like to see all season," said Benitez.

"Competing in the Champions League, the cup and the league all at the same time with a new team is not easy and I think that we still have a lot of room to grow."

The win was Napoli's first in four Serie A games and well deserved despite Adel Taarabt opening the scoring with a superb solo goal seven minutes into his Milan debut.

Gokhan Inler levelled four minutes later with a long range shot that fortuitously deflected over Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati.

"The game started badly for us, but the team reacted strongly," said goalscorer Higuain.

"I am convinced we are on the right track. We have played well recently and not had the luck, but we've always showed character. I am happy we got the win against a great side."

Milan stay in 10th on 29 points after their first league defeat under Clarence Seedorf, who took over the side on January 16.

Napoli are three points ahead of Fiorentina, who beat 12th-placed Atalanta 2-0 thanks to a stunning 16th-minute free kick from Slovenia international Josip Ilicic and a smart solo effort from Rafal Wolski four minutes from time.

Udinese moved a point behind Atalanta in 13th after a 3-0 victory over Chievo.

Antonio Di Natale scored his third goal in as many games nine minutes after the break, Bruno Fernandes added a second in the 74th minute and Ghana international Emmanuel Agyemang Badu hit the third with four minutes to go. (Editing by Clare Lovell)

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