Napoli eight points clear after fighting past rivals Atalanta

Napoli extended their lead at the top of Serie A to eight points on Saturday after coming from behind to win 2-1 at Atalanta and taking their domestic winning streak to nine matches.

Victor Osimhen and Eljif Elmas both struck in the first half to cancel out Ademola Lookman's 19th-minute penalty for the hosts, who are currently unbeaten Napoli's closest challengers.

That will change if AC Milan beat Spezia as expected at the San Siro in Saturday's late match, the champions aiming to take advantage of Atalanta's second defeat of the season and move into second place.

However Napoli, who lost their first match of the season at Liverpool midweek, are still guaranteed to be at least six points clear come the end of the weekend after a hard-fought win obtained in Bergamo without injured wing wizard Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

"These are three important points and we're on the right path, but it's a long season and we've still got a lot to do," said Elmas to DAZN.

Luciano Spalletti's side are also well on the way to ensuring top spot after the final top flight fixtures of 2022 next weekend ahead of the upcoming World Cup.

Napoli now have home matches with Empoli and Udinese, and, assuming Milan win later, they would have to lose both games with a big swing in goal difference to risk conceding first place before January.

Atalanta were good value for their early lead as they had pinned Napoli back for the first quarter of an hour and should have already scored through Rasmus Hojlund when Osimhen's handball during a goalmouth scramble was spotted by the VAR officials.

Lookman crashed in his fifth goal in six matches from the resulting penalty and the hosts looked ready to inflict a first Serie A loss of the campaign on Napoli.

- Napoli pull away -

But four minutes later Osimhen made up for his earlier error when from nowhere he levelled the scores, heading home Piotr Zielinski's inswinging cross following a short corner. The score takes him top of the scoring charts with eight goals.

And Osimhen was also key to Napoli taking the lead 10 minutes before the break.

After taking off down the right and shaking off the close attentions of Merih Demiral, the Nigeria striker flashed a low pass across the box to Elmas, who netted his second goal of the campaign, albeit with a deflection off Hans Hateboer.

Atalanta again came out firing in the opening minutes of the second half and Lookman should have equalised for the hosts when after Alex Meret made a superb save on Joakim Maehle the 25-year-old hit the bar on the rebound.

And Hojlund also could have done better than falling over the ball just after the hour mark when trying to convert Lookman's dangerous low cross.

However Napoli held off a persistent wave of attacks and could have even won by a bigger margin had substitute Giovanni Simeone not dragged a golden opportunity wide with 12 minutes remaining.

"We were up to Napoli's standard and at some points were better than them," said Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini.

"We didn't really deserve to lose and were a bit unlucky but we've got some pride and confidence out of this match."

Cremonese are second from bottom and still winless after snatching a late 2-2 draw at Salernitana, Daniel Ciofani netting on the rebound from his own missed penalty in the 89th minute to get a point.

Empoli move up to 12th after a single-goal victory over Sassuolo.