MILAN (Reuters) – Edinson Cavani’s goal drought ended when he scored twice for Napoli in a 3-2 win over Atalanta on Sunday, although his side nearly undid his work by gifting their opponents two goals with defensive howlers.
Napoli, who had coach Walter Mazzarri sent off at the end, stayed second in Serie A after Goran Pandev scored the winner four minutes from time to end a five-match winless run in the league.
Mario Balotelli also scored twice to give third-placed AC Milan a 2-0 win over joint bottom club Palermo, who have fired three coaches in their last six games and had Giuseppe Sannino starting his second stint of the season in the hot seat.
Serie A leading scorer Cavani, who had not scored in his last eight outings, took his Serie A tally to 20, while Balotelli has netted seven times in six appearances since his move from Manchester City.
Pescara stayed level at the bottom with Palermo after conceding two goals in the last five minutes and losing 2-0 at home to Chievo while Siena missed a chance to move out of the relegation zone when they were held 0-0 at home by Cagliari.
Fourth-placed Fiorentina emulated Napoli as they twice surrendered the lead at home to Genoa before a Mattia Cassani own goal gave them a 3-2 win.
They were helped by a blunder from Genoa goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas who fumbled a cross in the run up to Fiorentina’s second, allowing Juan Cuadrado to tap in.
Napoli, who have 56 points, stayed nine behind leaders Juventus, 2-0 winners at Bologna on Saturday, and two ahead of Milan, who are in the Champions League qualifying round spot.
Fiorentina are a further three points behind while fifth-placed Inter Milan’s match at Sampdoria was postponed due to heavy rain.
Cavani quickly ended his barren run in the fourth minute when Juan Camilo Zuniga was fouled just inside the area and the Uruguayan, who missed a penalty last week at Chievo, stepped up and converted, although Andrea Consigli got a hand to it.
Napoli wasted a flurry of chances and conceded a bizarre equaliser. Giacomo Bonaventura broke got away on the right, German Denis miscued with the goal at his mercy but the ball hit Paolo Cannavaro on the head and rebounded into the goal.
Carlos Carmona rattled the Napoli crossbar with a free kick but the hosts regained control and Cavani struck again with a superb effort in the 65th minute.
Receiving a short pass by Pandev, he wrong-footed three defenders with his first touch and rolled the ball into the far corner.
Atalanta replied eight minutes later when a long ball forward found Denis, who slipped between two defenders to score after goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis came off his line, hesitated and got into a mix-up with a defender.
Pandev’s 81st minute goal saved the day although there was still time for Mazzarri to be dismissed. The Napoli coach trudged across the pitch and surreptitiously watched the final minutes from the steps leading down to the dressing-rooms.
Balotelli was quick off the mark, winning and converting an eighth minute penalty as Milan bounced back from the midweek Champions League mauling by Barcelona.
Milan lived dangerously but Supermario made the game safe in the 66th minute with an easy tap-in, leaving Palermo level at the bottom with Pescara on 21 points.
The Sicilians, without a win in 15 games, sacked Gian Piero Gasperini at the start of February, but then fired his replacement Alberto Malesani after three matches, brought back Gasperini and sacked him again after another two matches.
Pescara were close to picking up only their second point in 10 games until Adrian Stoian scored with a curling effort for Chievo in the 86th minute and Cyril Thereau added another in stoppage time.
Siena, 18th in the 20-team table, have 25 points, one behind Genoa.
(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Sonia Oxley and Justin Palmer)
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