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Higuaín inspires Napoli comeback against Dinamo

SSC Napoli 3-1 FC Dinamo Moskva
Gonzalo Higuaín struck a hat-trick as the hosts fought back from a goal down to claim a healthy first-leg lead in Naples against their Russian rivals.

Gonzalo Higuaín struck a hat-trick as Napoli beat Dinamo
Gonzalo Higuaín struck a hat-trick as Napoli beat Dinamo ©AFP/Getty Images

Kevin Kuranyi scores first-half opener after just two minutes
Gonzalo Higuaín registers hat-trick; moves to six goals in Europe
Dinamo suffer first defeat in 13 European games this season
Napoli unable to extend record run of five straight clean sheets
• The second leg is next Thursday in Russia, with the quarter-final draw the following day

Gonzalo Higuaín hit a hat-trick as SSC Napoli recorded a fourth successive victory in the UEFA Europa League, ten-man FC Dinamo Moskva squandering an early lead in Italy.

Kevin Kuranyi headed Dinamo in front inside two minutes, but Rafael Benítez's charges responded well, Higuaín scoring the first of his three on 25 minutes. The Argentina striker then put his side in front from the penalty spot, and volleyed in a useful third after the interval.

Unbeaten in 12 European games this season, the visitors stunned the Partenopei by making a blistering start. Barely 60 seconds had elapsed when Yuri Zhirkov's left-footed effort forced a good save from home goalkeeper Mariano Andújar, and from the resulting corner Kevin Kuranyi nodded the visitors in front.

Napoli picked themselves back up, with Dries Mertens a threat down the left, and it was from that flank that Faouzi Ghoulam delivered a cross for Higuaín to head past Vladimir Gabulov. Six minutes later, the Serie A side were awarded a penalty. Mathieu Valbuena brought down Mertens and Higuaín did the rest, converting confidently straight down the middle.

European debutant Roman Zobnin was dismissed for a second bookable offence seconds after the restart, and things deteriorated further for Dinamo ten minutes later when Higuaín grabbed his third. Sending a left-footed volley past Gabulov, the Napoli No9 gave his side what could yet prove a vital cushion.