It was fitting the day before the Feast of San Gennaro (Januarius), patron saint of Naples, that SSC Napoli, and hat-trick hero Edinson Cavani in particular, had further cause for celebration thanks to a 3-1 victory against AC Milan.
Sunday's exploits completed a memorable week for Cavani, who on Wednesday etched his name into Napoli folklore with the club's first ever UEFA Champions League group stage goal in the 1-1 draw against Manchester City FC.
The Uruguayan international found the target with three first-time shots against Milan – two with his right foot and one with his left – after Alberto Aquilani had headed the visitors into an early lead. "Maybe tomorrow the San Gennaro miracle will not happen because there was already one big miracle here tonight," Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis said after the game.
On Monday Neapolitans will pack the city's cathedral for the archbishop's annual announcement of whether the blood of San Gennaro has liquefied. Good fortune is assumed if – and when – it has, though disasters ranging from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius to defeat for Napoli will be feared if not.
The Partenopei are certainly doing their part for the city, climbing to the Serie A summit following an opening-day win against AC Cesena and that triumph over the Rossoneri. Though Juventus, Cagliari Calcio and Udinese Calcio also have maximum points, Walter Mazzarri's side are already five clear of potential Scudetto rivals such as Milan, FC Internazionale Milano, AS Roma and S.S. Lazio.
"The atmosphere was amazing at the San Paolo," said Cavani. "We won a great match and you can see the joy of our fans tonight. We know our limits and our weaknesses, so we know we still have to work hard, but we also know we are on the right path. The league has just started and the season will be difficult and long but yes, this is a good sign. I thank God for this hat-trick and I dedicate it to my family."
El Matador, who scored 26 league goals for Napoli last season, became the first Serie A player to claim the match ball for scoring a treble – a long-standing tradition in Britain but only this season introduced in Italy. "He had three fine shots," said Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati. "However, we should have defended better. Napoli were probably hungrier than us."
Mazzarri, though, was still not fully satisfied. "We have played much better," he said. "We were fortunate to equalise soon after their goal. We played a bit better in the second half but I would like to understand why we don't play our best football in this kind of big game. However, I'm happy because we gave more joy to our fans after the good game in Manchester."
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