MILAN — Napoli beat Roma 4-0 in an emotional match in the Italian league on Sunday as the team paid tribute to Diego Maradona.
It was Napoli's first Serie A game since Maradona died on Wednesday in his native Argentina. Maradona led Napoli to its only two Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990 and is considered a god-like figure in the southern city.
“Certainly I played with an extra motivation, so did all my teammates,” Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne said. “We’ve lost our idol and it hurts.
“Today without doubt we wanted even more than normal to get a result, for Diego, for our city which is suffering this loss. We dedicate the victory to him.”
The victory saw Napoli move level with Roma and Juventus, six points below leader AC Milan, which beat Fiorentina 2-0 earlier in the day.
There was a touching moment before the game when Insigne placed bouquets of flowers under banners dedicated to Maradona, displayed in the empty stands at either end of the stadium.
Napoli's Stadio San Paolo will officially be renamed the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
There was a tribute to Maradona in all Serie A matches this weekend. That included a minute of silence for Maradona, while his image was also projected on the stadium screens again in the 10th minute, in honour of his shirt number. All players stopped to applaud.
Napoli players were wearing a special kit which bore a resemblance to the Argentina jersey in honour of Maradona.
Insigne also held up a shirt with Maradona’s name and number and kissed it after scoring the opening goal with a free kick in the 31st.
Fabián Ruiz doubled Napoli’s lead in the 64th, finishing off a counterattack with a low shot into the bottom right corner.
Roma offered little and Napoli effectively sealed the match nine minutes from time when Antonio Mirante could only parry Elif Elmas’ attempt and Dries Mertens turned in the rebound.
Substitute Matteo Politano added another goal five minutes later with a sensational solo run.
NO IBRA, NO PROBLEM
Despite the absence of its coach and star striker, AC Milan maintained its unbeaten start to the Serie A season.
Alessio Romagnoli's header and Franck Kessié's penalty in the first half secured the victory in front of the watching Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was injured but cheering his teammates on from the stands.
Milan coach Stefano Pioli was still absent after testing positive for the coronavirus.
The Rossoneri moved five points clear of Inter Milan and Sassuolo, which both played on Saturday.
Milan took the lead in the 17th minute when Romagnoli was left unmarked to head in a corner at the back post.
Dušan Vlahovic almost equalized shortly after but his effort was tipped onto the post by Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Instead, it was Milan that doubled its lead in the 28th when Kessié converted a penalty after Alexis Saelemaekers was tripped by Germán Pezzella.
Kessié had another penalty saved by Fiorentina goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski five minutes from time following a foul by Martín Cáceres on Theo Hernández.
Milan could have extended its lead early in the second half but Hakan Çalhanoglu’s strike came off the post.
Udinese was missing a number of players because of the coronavirus but managed to win 3-1 at Lazio.
Tolgay Arslan, Ignacio Pussetto and Fernando Forestieri scored for Udinese before Ciro Immobile's penalty.
Bologna beat bottom club Crotone 1-0. Cagliari drew 2-2 against Spezia.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Daniella Matar, The Associated Press