ROME (AP) — Small in stature and with the speed to match fellow forwards like Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne, Hirving Lozano fits right in at Napoli.
The Mexico forward ran onto a ball over the top from Fabian Ruiz and scored the winner two minutes after he came on in a 2-1 victory at relegation-threatened Genoa in Serie A on Wednesday.
It was the exact type of goal that Mertens, Insigne and Jose Callejon have made Napoli’s signature play in recent years.
It was also Lozano’s second goal of the restart after getting thrown out of training by Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso for a lack of dedication.
The 5-foot-9 (1.76-meter) Lozano became Napoli’s most expensive player in history a year ago when he was signed from PSV Eindhoven for a club record 42 million euros ($46.5 million).
After a difficult start to the season that coincided with Gattuso replacing Carlo Ancelotti, Lozano is starting to show he can be a worthy substitute for Mertens, whom he replaced in the second half at the Luigi Ferraris stadium.
»He’s doing better,» Gattuso said. »He deserves everything he’s done lately. Right now he’s a player showing great things.»
Still, Napoli’s all-time leading scorer Mertens remains the first choice at center forward and the Belgium international showed why when he curled a shot from the edge of the area into the bottom corner to put Napoli ahead in first-half added time.
Shortly after the break, Edoardo Goldaniga equalized for Genoa with a header.
Freshly crowned Italian Cup champion Napoli has lost only one match of the restart. This win meant the Partenopei remained level on points with fifth-place Roma, which beat Parma 2-1.
»We’re doing well and I?m satisfied with the team but I want even more of a competitive mentality,» Gattuso said. »You don’t get anywhere with technical skills alone. Soccer is made up of a lot of components, both physical and mental.»
Genoa remained one point from safety.
Atalanta moved provisionally into third place with a 2-0 win over visiting Sampdoria courtesy of late strikes from Rafael Toloi and Luis Muriel.
Atalanta has won all six of its games in the restart and extended its overall winning streak to a club-record nine matches.
Atalanta moved two points ahead of Inter Milan, which visits Hellas Verona on Thursday, and within two points of second-place Lazio, which lost at Lecce on Tuesday.
Both goals came following corners: first a header from Toloi, then an accurate shot from Muriel, his 17th of the season – 10 of which have come as a substitute.
Up next for Atalanta: a visit Saturday to eight-time defending Italian champion Juventus, which squandered a two-goal lead in a wild 4-2 loss at AC Milan on Tuesday.
Roma ended a three-match losing streak with a 2-1 comeback win over Parma.
After Juraj Kucka’s penalty for Parma, Roma hit back with goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Jordan Veretout.
Also, Sassuolo moved up to eighth by beating Bologna 2-1 in an Emilia-Romagna derby with goals from Domenico Berardi and Lukas Haraslin; Torino came back to defeat relegation-threatened Brescia 3-1 with scores from Simone Verdi, Andrea Belotti and Simone Zaza; and Fiorentina was held 0-0 at home by Cagliari.
In another night of protests from the benches, both Sampdoria coach Claudio Ranieri and Bologna counterpart Sinisa Mihajlovic were sent off.
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Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf