Yet another scintillating performance from the Uruguayan hitman downs the Biancocelesti, and ensures Napoli's Scudetto hopes live on...
Napoli produced a sensational second-half performance to defeat a persistent Lazio 4-3 at the Stadio San Paolo, with Edinson Cavani once again stealing the show with a hat-trick.
Andrea Dossena also netted for the home side after Stefano Mauri, Andre Dias and a Salvatore Aronica own goal forced the Partenopei to twice come from behind order to secure victory.
The match started in a lively fashion, with Fernando Muslera needing to be on his toes in the Lazio goal. Walter Mazzarri's men looked very positive in the early stages whilst the visitors began with a conservative approach.
Stefano Mauri has had a very good individual season for both club and country, and he scored a splendid goal for the away side on 29 minutes. After collecting the ball in a trequartista position, he successfully skipped past several Napoli defenders and delightfully toe-poked the ball past Morgan De Sanctis to give his team an arguably undeserved lead at that stage.
Mauri had a golden opportunity to double both his goal tally just four minutes later with a far easier chance, after being played in one-on-one with bundles of space, but he miscued his finish as it whistled wide.
On 36 minutes, Napoli should have equalised after Christian Maggio’s whipped cross met Dossena’s head at the far post, but his effort went over. Just a couple of minutes later, Cavani broke down the left and his wonderfully fizzed in low cross was almost met by Hamsik. Any contact from the Slovakian would have resulted in a definite equaliser.
The second half started with a Lazio goal once again, this time from a set-piece on 56 minutes, as Javier Garrido’s fine swinging free-kick from the right was flicked in by Andre Dias to make it 2-0.
However, it was the start of an incredible comeback for the home side as they pulled one back just three minutes later through another set-piece. This time it was Ezequiel Lavezzi’s turn to whip the ball in, and the cross was met at the far post by an incoming Dossena, to net his first goal of the season.
Just two minutes later, Edinson Cavani’s superb season at the San Paolo continued after he met Maggio’s header across the Lazio goal and, with Muslera beaten, he simply nodded in for 2-2, to set up a thrilling remaining half-hour of proceedings.
The game continued to excite as substitute Giuseppe Mascara’s effort one-on-one with Muslera was well saved by the Uruguay number one.
Controversy ensued moments later on 68 minutes as Cristian Brocchi’s thundering long range shot rattled the crossbar, but replays showed that it had appeared to have crossed the line when it bounced downwards. The referee signalled play on, but Edy Reja’s men were clearly furious at the decision.
One minute after that, Lazio regained their lead through an unlikely own goal. Salvatore Aronica’s poor attempt at clearing his lines resulted in him sliding in Mauri’s fine cross, and the visitors were 3-2 in front.
The game took yet another twist on 79 minutes as Cavani won a penalty for the hosts after being brought down by Giuseppe Biava, who harshly received a straight red card for his challenge. He dispatched the penalty coolly into the bottom right corner, sending his fellow countryman the wrong way for his 24th goal of the season.
Incredibly, on 87 minutes, Cavani secured his treble after he chested down an inch-perfect ball into his path ahead of the Lazio defence and, in the most elegant of fashion, dinked the ball over an onrushing Muslera.
This performance will live long in the memory of Napolitani supporters, especially if the Scudetto trophy returns to the San Paolo after a long drought.