Giroud into double figures again, helps Milan win at Empoli
MILAN (AP) — Barely a year ago, Napoli fans were singing in Turin that their team was going to win the Serie A title following a 4-0 victory. On Sunday, in the same stadium, Napoli fans threw flares onto the field and jeered as the defending champion lost 3-0 at Torino.
A horror show for Napoli — that included defender Pasquale Mazzocchi being sent off just four minutes into his debut — left the team ninth in Serie A, 20 points behind league leader Inter Milan and five below fourth-place Fiorentina.
Napoli looks like a shadow of the team that thrilled in Italy and abroad last season. Title-winning coach Luciano Spalletti left at the end of the campaign and his replacement Rudi Garcia was fired in November.
But matters haven’t improved since Walter Mazzarri took over with just three wins in his 10 matches in charge and six defeats.
However, Napoli sporting director Mauro Meluso claims Mazzarri’s job is not at risk.
“Mazzarri has the club’s and the team’s utmost confidence, there is no reflection at all on his position,” Meluso said. “Everyone can see that there is a different situation in terms of performance from last year.
“We don’t want to hide and probably there’s also been bad luck to add to our negative period … but we can’t continue like this.”
Mazzarri was suspended for the match in Turin and could only watch from the stands as Antonio Sanabria fired Torino in front at the end of the first half.
Mazzocchi, who joined from Salernitana two days ago, was brought on at halftime and moments later went sliding into a tackle on Valentino Lazaro with a high boot. The referee initially awarded a yellow card but after reviewing the incident on the pitchside monitor changed it to a straight red.
Nikola Vlašić doubled Torino’s advantage almost immediately and Alessandro Buongiorno scored the third in the 66th, two minutes after Ivan Ilić hit the post for the home team.
The match was briefly halted shortly afterward as Napoli fans threw flares onto the field.
Napoli players went to apologize to the visiting fans after the match.
Juventus needed a last-minute goal to win 2-1 at 10-man Salernitana on a much more difficult evening for the Bianconeri than against the same team three days ago.
Dušan Vlahović headed in the winner in stoppage time to see second-place Juventus move back to within two points of Inter, which beat Hellas Verona 2-1 on Saturday.
Samuel Iling-Junior had scored the equalizer in the 65th minute. Salernitana played most of the second period with 10 men after first-half scorer Giulio Maggiore was sent off for a second yellow card.
Juventus had beaten Salernitana 6-1 in the Italian Cup on Thursday.
DOUBLE FIGURES FOR GIROUD
Olivier Giroud took his goal tally into double figures for the 14th season in a row as he helped AC Milan to a 3-0 win at relegation-threatened Empoli for the Rossoneri's first away win in three months.
Giroud doubled Milan’s lead from the penalty spot in the first half following Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s opener.
Giroud had missed his last spot kick — against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League in November — but made no mistake this time, albeit with a somewhat risky penalty that went in off the underside of the crossbar for his 10th goal for Milan in all competitions this season.
Teenager Chaka Traorè sealed the win late on after a powerful run from United States international Christian Pulisic down almost the entire length of the field.
It was the 19-year-old Traorè's second goal in as many matches — after he helped Milan beat Cagliari 4-1 in the Italian Cup on Tuesday — but his first in Serie A.
Third-place Milan moved nine points below city rival Inter.
Roma coach José Mourinho faces another touchline ban after being sent off at the end of his side's 1-1 draw against Atalanta.
The Portuguese coach was shown a yellow card for dissent at the end of each half and will now miss next weekend's match at Milan.
Mourinho, who narrowly escaped a ban last month, was suspended for two matches at the start of this campaign for comments about a referee at the end of last season. He was also banned for four matches by UEFA in June for verbally abusing the Europa League final referee in a stadium garage after Roma lost to Sevilla.
On the field on Sunday, Paulo Dybala converted a penalty for Roma to cancel out Teun Koopmeiners' early opener.
Atalanta trimmed the gap to the top four to three points. Lazio is level with Atalanta after winning 2-1 at relegation-threatened Udinese, with Roma a point further back.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer