ROME (AP) — Last season's runner-up Napoli impressed in Rafa Benitez's debut Sunday, comfortably beating Bologna 3-0 in its Serie A opener and immediately stating its intent to challenge two-time defending champion Juventus.
After former Real Madrid forward Jose Maria Callejon put Napoli ahead in the 32nd, Marek Hamsik added goals in the 45th and 63rd as fans wondered if this might be the year that their squad breaks the northern grip on the Italian league title.
Northern squads Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan have won the last 11 Serie A titles, while Napoli hasn't finished top since Diego Maradona led the southern club to its only two championships in 1987 and 1990.
Perhaps in anticipation of celebrations, Napoli even had American-style cheerleaders inside the San Paolo stadium.
"I expected the squad to do well and we did well but we can do even better," said Benitez, who previously coached in Italy at Inter Milan in the first half of the 2010-11 season. "This squad has a lot of quality in attack."
It was also a positive debut for former Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri with Inter, which got late goals from Yuto Nagatomo and Rodrigo Palacio for a 2-0 win over Genoa.
And Lazio bounced back from its 4-0 loss to Juventus in the Super Cup by beating visiting Udinese 2-1 with first-half goals from Hernanes and Antonio Candreva.
Lazio had to play with one end of the Stadio Olimpico closed as punishment for fan racism in the Super Cup. As a response, the Roman club's players wore shirts with a message that read "We love football, we fight racism."
Lazio's rival Roma had a good start, too, with Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi scoring two minutes apart midway through the second half for a 2-0 win at promoted Livorno.
There was a curious moment in the first half, as new Roma coach Rudi Garcia was seen talking on his cell phone as he sat on the bench. He said afterward that he was discussing tactics with an assistant in the tribune, although it could earn him a fine.
Elsewhere, Cagliari beat Atalanta 2-1 in Trieste, where it is playing due to troubles with its stadium; Torino spoiled Sassuolo's Serie A debut with a 2-0 win and Parma was held to a 0-0 draw at home by Chievo Verona despite solid play from newly signed Antonio Cassano.
On Saturday, Juventus began its bid for a third straight title with a 1-0 win at Sampdoria while Milan was stunned 2-1 by newly promoted Hellas Verona, which got two goals from Luca Toni.
The first round concludes Monday with Fiorentina facing Catania.
In Naples, the hosts were in control from the start as Callejon hit the post six minutes in then redirected in a rebound of a shot from Hamsik to give Napoli the lead.
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