The Partenopei's Uruguayan talisman scored a stunning treble to underline the San Paolo side's title credentials
A stunning Edinson Cavani hat-trick fired Napoli to an impressive 3-1 victory over Serie A champions AC Milan and sent out a warning to the rest of Serie A that the Stadio San Paolo side are genuine title contenders this season.The Uruguayan scored twice in the first half and once in the second to seal a remarkable treble after the hosts had originally trailed to Alberto Aquilani's 11th minute header.
There was absolutely no indication of what was to come in the early stages as Milan took the game to their opponents from kick-off and got an early reward for their efforts when Aquilani fired them into an 11th minute lead.
Clarence Seedorf’s superb switch found Antonio Cassano in space wide on the right. The Italy international took a touch before picking out Aquilani’s burst from midfield with a precise cross which the Liverpool loanee sent arcing into Morgan De Sanctis’ top right-hand corner with a wonderful diving header.
But the lead would last less than two minutes as Cavani scored his first of the night to restore parity in the 13th minute.
Ezequiel Lavezzi whipped over a free-kick from out on the right wing and Christian Maggio rose highest to knock the ball back across the face of goal to Cavani, who lashed a first-time half-volley under Christian Abbiati to level the scores.
The game then became something of a tactical battle, with Milan looking to dominate possession and find a way through Napoli’s well-organised 3-4-2-1 system. The hosts, on the other hand, sat behind the ball waiting for the opportune moment in which to strike on the counter attack.
That opportune moment proved to be the 36th minute. Gokhan Inler nicked the ball away from Alexandre Pato, allowing his central midfield partner, Walter Gargano, to collect the loose ball and embarked on a lung bursting run which would literally took him from box to box.
The Napoli No. 23 skipped past Mark van Bommel’s inadequate challenge and then advanced unopposed before slipping the ball to his left for Cavani to sweep home an unstoppable effort and seal an impressive comeback.
With the half-time whistle looming, Aqualini had an excellent opportunity to grab a brace of his own, but De Sanctis raced from his line to stick out a leg and make an important block.
Just five minutes had elapsed in the second half when Cavani completed his hat-trick by slamming home a left-footed volley after Alessandro Nesta had failed to properly clear Lavezzi’s low centre from the right.
Milan were never likely to find a way back with Pato proving so wasteful in front of goal. The Brazilian hitman lashed one effort high, wide and not very handsome, and then sent a woeful 71st minute header over the crossbar after Cassano had found him with a pinpoint centre.
The 2011-12 champions now have little time to rest following tonight's exploits due to the fact they will meet another top-four side from last season when Udinese roll up at San Siro on Wednesday night.
Napoli, meanwhile, make the journey north to face Chievo in the Bentegodi, where they will be looking to collect three points of their own that same evening.