Napoli 6-2 Hellas Verona: Higuain hat-trick helps Benitez's men to big win

The Argentina forward found the net three times in his side’s thrashing of the Gialloblu at the Stadio San Paolo, which will ease pressure on his coach

Napoli thrashed Hellas Verona 6-2 in Sunday’s Serie A clash to ease pressure on under-fire boss Rafael Benitez.

A hat-trick from Gonzalo Higuain, along with two goals from Marek Hamsik and another from Jose Callejon, was enough to seal all three points, with Verona replying through Emil Hallfredsson and Nicolas Lopez.

Benitez’s men had to recover from a poor start after conceding with only 25 seconds on the clock, after Hallfredsson pounced on a poor clearance from Raul Albiol to drive the ball into the bottom corner.

And the hosts had to wait until just before the half-time interval to draw level, with Hamsik finding the back of the net from close range on the half-volley.

Napoli then took the lead just before the hour mark, with Hamsik again the scorer, after the Slovakia international made no mistake at the second time of asking following a rebound from his own first effort.

They were then pegged back however, with Lopez avoiding the attentions of two defenders before equalising against the run of play.

But just two minutes later Napoli were back in the lead, with Higuain slotting home after a mistake from Hallfredsson.

Callejon then put daylight between the two sides after being set up by Hamsik, before Higuain added another to put the result beyond doubt.

And the Argentina international put the icing on the cake in the 90th minute, sealing his hat-trick from the penalty spot after Dries Mertens had been brought down in the box.

Higuain can make the difference without scoring – Benitez

The under-fire coach is happy with the attacker’s contribution and feels Napoli deserved their win over Sassuolo at the weekend

Napoli coach Rafa Benitez has defended Gonzalo Higuain in the wake of recent criticism and has stressed that the Argentine doesn’t need to score goals to make an impact.

The former Real Madrid striker has yet to find the net in Serie A this term, but Benitez is pleased with the 26-year-old’s contribution.

“Higuain hasn’t scored in Serie A yet, but he can make the difference with assists too,” Benitez told Sky Sport.

“We know that there are many players in this squad who can get goals.”

Napoli beat Sassuolo 1-0 on Sunday to climb to eighth spot in the table after a difficult start to the season and Benitez feels the win was a just reward for their hard work

“I see this as a victory for the team that rewarded our mentality.

“We only suffered for the final 10 minutes. Clearly every victory can help and we proved that we deserved more from this season.

“We were all united and we earned three important points. We worked very well in defence and Sassuolo only created problems with long balls. We were balanced.

“I think we still need to improve, but I am satisfied with this victory. We know that we are a strong club who deserved to win more games this term.”

Meanwhile, Napoli director Riccardo Bigon has insisted that Benitez’s job is not on the line.

“Benitez is a coach with a lot of experience and great achievements. He has won several trophies throughout his career. His results and working methods cannot be put in doubt.”

Higuain: I'm happy at Napoli

It has been reported that the Argentina international has been left unsettled by the club’s poor start to the season – but he he says he has no desire to leave a city he loves

Gonzalo Higuain insists that he feels “right at home” at Napoli – despite constant speculation linking the striker with a move away from the San Paolo.

The Argentina international only joined the Partenopei from Real Madrid last summer and enjoyed a stellar debut season in Italy, scoring 24 goals in all competitions as Rafael Benitez’s side finished third in Serie A and lifted the Coppa Italia.

There have been reports, though, that Higuain has been left bitterly disappointed by the lack of new arrivals over the summer, something he allegedly feels directly contributed to the dismal Champions League play-off loss to Athletic Bilbao.

Consequently, there has been talk of a January move to the Premier League, with Arsenal and Liverpool both said to be interested, but Higuain says he has no desire to leave Naples.

“The city has everything,” he told reporters at the launch of the EA Sports computer game, FIFA 15.

“It is very similar to Buenos Aires and an Argentine feels right at home there.

“Also, you can just take a boat and you are very close to beautiful places like Capri, Sorrento and Ischia.”

Higuain did admit, however, that he is still looking for someone to settle with in Italy.

“I have not yet found the love of my life,” the 26-year-old confessed. “I’m still looking for here.

“You must be friends and boyfriend and girlfriend at the same time.”

Napoli showed fighting spirit against Sparta – Benitez

The Spaniard was thrilled with the way in which the Partenopei battled back to beat their Czech opponents in light of a turbulent few weeks at the San Paolo

Napoli coach Rafa Benitez has voiced his delight with how his side responded to falling behind to Sparta Prague in Thursday’s 3-1 Europa League win.

Napoli found themselves trailing after 14 minutes in Naples, when Josef Husbauer opened the scoring for the Czech champions, but Sparta Prague were pegged back nine minutes later as Gonzalo Higuain converted a penalty, before a second-half double from Dries Mertens sealed maximum points for the Italian outfit.

While he feels there is still room for improvement, Benitez has stressed that he was pleased with Napoli’s response.

“I liked the positive reaction from the team,” Benitez told Sport Mediaset.

“After conceding that goal, we played a good game and it was all very positive.

“We could’ve done better defending corners, but the strikers created many scoring opportunities.

“Sparta Prague started with a 4-4-2 and pressed us a lot, so it wasn’t easy to control the ball.”

The win provided a much-needed boost for Napoli, who were surprisingly beaten 1-0 at home to Chievo in Serie A last week.

Higuain buoyed by Napoli 'redemption'

The Argentina star struck twice after his side had fallen behind on the night, to clinch a result that could kick-start a disappointing start to the campaign

Gonzalo Higuain says Napoli have redeemed themselves with their 3-1 victory over Sparta Prague in Thursday’s Europa League group game.

The Partenopei went 1-0 behind 14 minutes into their Stadio San Paolo clash, sparking fears among home fans of back-to-back defeats following their loss at the ground to Chievo on Sunday.

However, Higuain converted from the spot to trigger a turnaround of fortunes for Rafa Benitez’s men, with Dries Mertens scoring twice in the second half.

The Argentina striker believes that the performance was proof that Napoli are trying their hardest to turn around their middling 2014-15 fortunes, following a miserable start to their Serie A campaign.

“After Sunday’s defeat had to prove to our fans that we wanted to win and that we wanted these three points,” Higuain told Mediaset Premium. “It was an important game, we had to show our character.

“Last year we played in a lot of big games late in the season and this year we want to repeat that. I shot my penalty in the same direction as I did on Sunday – I was not thinking about another mistake but only to score.”

Napoli are back in action in Serie A on Sunday at Udinese.