Hamsik passes Maradona's mark

Napoli's Slovakian midfielder Marek Hamsik celebrates after scoring a goal during the Italian Serie A football match against Sampdoria at the San Paolo Stadium in Naples Saturday. — AFP

MILAN — Marek Hamsik scored his 116th goal in all competitions Saturday to overtake Diego Maradona as Napoli's all-time record goalscorer and keep the Serie A leader top for Christmas.

Hamsik's strike before the break ensured a come-from-behind 3-2 win over Sampdoria to give Napoli 45 points from 18 games with second-placed Juventus on 41 ahead of its game against title rival AS Roma, in fourth.

But third-placed Inter Milan suffered its second consecutive defeat, falling 1-0 at Sassuolo, to drop five points behind the leaders.

"The important thing is that we won while suffering, as it's a victory that counts for even more, because Inter lost today as well," said Hamsik.

"It's practically a six-pointer. We used up a lot of energy to get the game back on track, but fortunately we brought home the result."

Napoli was trailing twice in the first half with Gaston Ramirez firing in a freekick after just two minutes to catch Pepe Reina off guard in goal.

But Allan equalized after a quarter of an hour at the San Paolo stadium only for Fabio Quagliarella to convert a penalty after a foul on Ramirez to restore Sampdoria's lead after 27 minutes.

Quagliaella almost had a second shortly after, before Lorenzo Insigne marked his comeback from a groin strain with a volley on 33 minutes following a Dries Mertens flicked cross.

But it was captain Hamsik who sealed the victory six minutes before the break, again off a Mertens cross, to overtake Argentina legend Maradona's long held mark.

Napoli held on in the second half despite being reduced to ten men following Mario Rui's sending off, to open up a four-point lead on Juventus before Saturday's late match.

Hamsik joined Napoli in 2007 as a 20-year-old and is now captain and a stalwart of the side hoping to win its first Scudetto since the days of Argentina legend Maradona.

Maradona took just seven years to score his 115 goals between 1984 and 1991, helping the team to their only two Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990.

"The record is nice and I have already received a gift, my friends made me shin-pads with 116 on them, but my first thought was that we were winning the game after going behind twice," said the 30-year-old Slovak.

"I am happy, but I still can't get my head round this record. I worked hard with my head down to get back to my level. Napoli are doing well and that's all that matters."

However, despite its remarkable start to the season, Inter has taken a single point from its last three matches, with back-to-back losses to minnows Udinese and Sassuolo.

Diego Falcinelli headed in the only goal after 34 minutes at the Mapei Stadium, with goalkeeper Andrea Consigli saving a penalty from leading Serie A scorer Mauro Icardi.

Luciano Spaletti's side are third but just two points ahead of Roma, which has played two games less.

Lazio, also with a game in hand, is two points off Roma after easing past Crotone 4-0.

Meanwhile, troubled AC Milan, in eighth, hosts Atalanta, one place above later Saturday.

SPAL came back following an Iago Falque double in the first ten minutes to hold Torino, while Udinese crushed Verona 4-0.

Tailenders Benevento lost again following a last-gasp Genoa penalty. — AFP