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Osimhen returns from injury as Napoli beat Atalanta in coach Mazzarri’s debut

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Nigeria striker Victor Osimhen is back and so might Napoli under new coach Walter Mazzarri. Osimhen came off the bench to mark his first appearance after more than a month injured and proved decisive in a 2-1 win at Atalanta on Saturday for the defending Serie A champion.

Osimhen took advantage of a poor clearance from Atalanta goalkeeper Marco Carnesecchi and stuck out his boot to push the ball with his toes toward fellow substitute Eljif Elmas, who used one touch to redirect it in for the winner in the 79th minute.

Osimhen, last season’s top scorer in the Italian league, hadn’t played since injuring his right thigh with Nigeria last month.

Mazzarri, who also coached Napoli a decade ago, was hired to replace the fired Rudi Garcia after Napoli lost to Empoli before the international break — the Partenopei’s third home loss this campaign after dropping only two all of last season.

Napoli moved up to third place, one point ahead of AC Milan, which was hosting Fiorentina later, and within seven points of leader Inter Milan, which visits second-place Juventus on Sunday.

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Atalanta dropped to sixth.

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia put Napoli ahead with a header late in the first half. Ademola Lookman equalized for Atalanta with a header after the break.

Both sides had goals waved off for offside after video reviews — a first-half header from Napoli center back Amir Rrahmani and a second-half effort from Atalanta midfielder Mario Pasalic.

Napoli also lost left back Matias Olivera to an apparent knee injury.

Up next for Napoli is a visit to Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday and then a match against Inter next weekend.

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Sarri under pressure

Last-place Salernitana produced a 2-1 comeback win over visiting Lazio for its first victory of the season.

Former Lazio winger Antonio Candreva scored the deciding goal with a swerving shot from beyond the area.

Ciro Immobile had put Lazio ahead with a penalty kick to become the first Serie A player to score 100 away goals. But then Grigoris Kastanos equalized for Salernitana to start the comeback.

Salernitana moved within two points of safety, while Lazio remained 10th.

Lazio has won only five of 13 matches after finishing second last season and is winless for three matches.

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“Over the coming days I will make an evaluation and if I find that the fault is mine, then I will assume responsibility and tell the president to make a change,” Lazio coach Maurizio Sarri said. “But for the moment I’m not there yet.”

Lazio hosts Celtic in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Players and coaches across the league had red marks painted on their faces to promote a campaign for the elimination of violence against women.

-AP

 

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.