MILAN: Second-placed Napoli comfortably overcame the absence of suspended top scorer Gonzalo Higuain to brush aside bottom-of-the-table Verona 3-0 in Serie A on Sunday after their opponents played the entire second-half with 10 men.
Napoli stayed six points behind leaders Juventus, who won 2-1 at AC Milan on Saturday to continue their unstoppable run, with six matches to play, and remain outsiders to win their first title since 1990.
Higuain, who has led Napoli's challenge with 30 goals, will also miss the next three games as he completes a four-match ban for his sending-off and furious reaction in last week's 3-1 defeat at Udinese.
Fiorentina's recent dismal run continued when they lost to their smaller Tuscan neighbours Empoli for the first time since 1997, leaving them fifth. Juventus have 76 points from 32 games with Napoli on 70, AS Roma on 63, Inter Milan on 58 and Fiorentina on 56.
Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri and his players refused to speak to the media, continuing their media blackout which the club say will continue until their appeal against Higuain's ban has been heard.
Verona coach Luigi del Nero said there was a foul in the run-up to Napoli's first goal and that Napoli defender Raul Albiol should have been sent off for sarcastically applauding the referee. However, he said Napoli deserved their win.
Napoli hit the post twice and had a goal disallowed before Manolo Gabbiadini headed them in front in the 33rd minute, his fifth goal in only seven starts this season, after Verona goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini parried Jose Callejon's shot.
The game was effectively settled in first-half stoppage time when Samuel Souprayen knocked over Callejon in the area, was sent off and Lorenzo Insigne converted the penalty.
Callejon was rewarded for his efforts when he scored the third from close-range in the 70th minute.
Fiorentina, at one stage in contention for a top-three finish and Champions League spot, continued in freefall as they lost 2-0 to Empoli, with Manuel Pucciarelli and Piotr Zielinski scoring late in each half for the hosts.
Paulo Sousa's team have lost four and drawn two of their last six league games.
"We had several chances to score but today Empoli scored with their only shots on target," the Portuguese coach told touchline television reporters.
"We want to get back our winning touch, which we had in the first half of the season. Defensive football is just unnatural for me."
Sampdoria, who have lost only one of their last six games, pulled further clear of the relegation zone with a 2-0 win over Udinese while Torino beat Atalanta 2-1 in a midtable match thanks to a winner from much-travelled Argentine forward Maxi Lopez.