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Soccer-Mertens double helps Napoli close gap on Roma

Reuters

Jan 6 (Reuters) - Dries Mertens scored twice in the second-half to help inconsistent Napoli beat Sampdoria 2-0 in Serie A on Monday and close the gap on second-placed AS Roma.

The Belgian provided the breakthrough for the home team after 53 minutes when he volleyed in Gonzalo Higuain's cross, just as Sampdoria were threatening to take control.

Manolo Gabbiadini blasted against the crossbar as the visitors almost grabbed a quick equaliser, only for Mertens to make the game safe by curling in a 25-metre free kick in the 62nd minute.

The win gave third-placed Napoli 39 points from 18 games, two behind Roma who lost 3-0 at leaders Juventus on Sunday.

In their previous six games, Rafael Benitez's Napoli had lost 3-0 to Juve and 1-0 at home to Parma, beaten Lazio and Inter Milan and dropped points at home to Udinese in a 3-3 draw and in a 1-1 draw at Cagliari.

It was sixth from bottom Sampdoria's first defeat in six games since Sinisa Mihajlovic took over as coach. (Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Tony Jimenez)

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