"I played like I always do, only this time the ball went in," said Gonzalo Higuaín after scoring his first SSC Napoli hat-trick, 29 years to the day after Diego Maradona did the same.
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Gonzalo Higuaín scored his first SSC Napoli hat-trick in Sunday's 4-2 win against SS Lazio, some 29 years after another Argentinian hit a treble against the same opponents.
On 24 February 1985, Diego Maradona scored his first Napoli hat-trick as the Partenopei defeated Lazio 4-0. He ended that campaign – his first with Napoli – with 14 goals. It is hard to imagine Higuaín – or indeed any other player – replace the famous No10 in Napoli fans's affections, but with 17 goals since joining from Real Madrid CF in the summer, 'El Pipita' is carving out quite a reputation as he bids to replace Edinson Cavani, who scored over 100 goals (and two hat-tricks against Lazio) in three seasons at the San Paolo Stadium.
Having failed to score in his previous four Serie A games, the 26-year-old Higuaín put Napoli 2-1 up from the penalty spot early in the second half. With the visitors down to ten men, Higuaín then twice dribbled past defender Diego Novaretti to beat goalkeeper Etrit Berisha, making it 3-1 and finally 4-2.
"I played like I always do, only this time the ball went in," the 26-year-old Higuaín said. "I was always very calm because I know our coach [Rafael Benítez] has faith in me. I'm happy for me and for the team, it was a very important victory after the defeat against Parma. This time luck was by our side."
After the 1-0 loss at Parma, Benítez said Higuaín "could and should do more". The striker responded. "I only tried to motivate him because he makes the difference for us with his quality," Benítez said last night. "He scored three but the rest of the team played well too, putting him in the position to score. I have a fantastic relationship with Higuaín. He is the first one to know when he plays well and when he plays less well."
Napoli failed to make it through the UEFA Champions League group stage despite four group stage wins, but – third in Serie A, and nine points clear of fourth-placed ACF Fiorentina – look to be in a good position to qualify for Europe's top club competition again.
Moreover, while Maradona had to wait three seasons to win his first trophy with Napoli, leading the Partenopei to the domestic double in 1986/87, Higuaín could get his hands on silverware faster, since Benítez's side will face Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia final on 3 May. It could be a dream start to his Napoli career.