Ten-man Napoli beat Empoli 2-0 away
EMPOLI, Italy, Feb 25 (Reuters) - A goal by striker Victor Osimhen and an own goal by Empoli defender Ardian Ismajli earned 10-man Napoli a 2-0 away win in Serie A on Saturday, extending their lead over second-placed Inter Milan to a staggering 18 points.
Napoli, who have kept a clean sheet in their last four league matches for a second time under coach Luciano Spalletti, previously doing so in October 2021, remain top of the standings on 65 points.
"Everyone is playing their lives against us," Spalletti told DAZN.
"The fact that we maintain the distance against the others (in the standings) is a sign that the team has understood what the spirit should be.
"Everyone is there wondering towards the future (and the championship) but I say it's better to have an egg today than a hen tomorrow."
Napoli are seeking their first Serie A title since 1989-90, after being runners-up four times since 2013.
They dominated the clash from the outset and pushed mid-table Empoli enough to pressure Ismajli into opening the scoring with an own goal in the 17th minute.
Napoli winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia sent a lofted pass from the edge of the box to midfielder Piotr Zielinski who saw Osimhen in front of goal but before his cross could reach the striker, Ismajli put the ball in.
Empoli had a chance to level the score from a distance three minutes later but a close shot by midfielder Liam Henderson was well saved by Napoli keeper Alex Meret.
Osimhen made it 2-0 for Napoli just before the half-hour mark, tapping in a rebound from close range after Empoli keeper Guglielmo Vicario had parried a strike by Kvaratskhelia right into the Nigerian's path.
Minutes later Vicario saved what should have been another goal from the in-form Osimhen.
The Nigerian striker has now scored in each of his last eight Serie A games, becoming the first player to score in eight Italian top-flight appearances in a row since Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese netted 11 in 2019-20.
Osimhen found the back of the net again 15 minutes into the second half but his acrobatic effort was ruled out for offside.
The visitors were left with 10 men in the 67th minute after defender Mario Rui received a direct red for a foul on Empoli striker Francesco Caputo.
Empoli, winless in their last five outings, are 12th on 28 points.
Napoli next host Lazio on Friday, while Empoli travel to 11th-placed Monza the following day.
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