Immobile hits hat-trick as Lazio crush Sampdoria

by Emmeline MOORE
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Lazio's Italian forward Ciro Immobile has scored 23 goals in 19 games this season

Ciro Immobile scored a hat-trick as Lazio thrashed ten-man Sampdoria 5-1 on Saturday to consolidate third place in Serie A and keep the pressure on leaders Juventus and Inter Milan.

Simone Inzaghi's side extended their club record winning streak to 11 games as they target a first Serie A title since 2000 with Immobile the runaway top scorer in Serie A with 23 goals.

"If we get to seven, eight, ten games from the end and we are still there, why not try to still believe? But for now the goal remains the Champions League," insisted Immobile.

"The important thing is to continue like this without getting carried away."

Immobile is on course to overtake Gonzalo Higuain's Serie A record of 36 goals scored for Napoli in the 2015-2016 season.

"Only Higuain achieved this so it's tough," continued Immobile, whose previous best was 29 goals in the 2017-2018 season.

"But with these teammates, this crowd, this enthusiasm, we can continue to do well, and hopefully I can keep scoring.

"I always keep my feet on the ground and I'm already thinking about Tuesday's (Italian Cup) game against Napoli, which is very important."

- 'Play with heart' -

Sampdoria had beaten Brescia 5-1 last time out but were overrun by the Romans who move three points behind Juventus and one adrift of Inter Milan.

Atalanta and Roma are ten points behind.

Eight-time reigning champions Juventus host Parma on Sunday with Inter Milan at Lecce.

Immobile played a role in Felipe Caicedo's opener after just seven minutes in the Stadio Olimpico.

He added two more goals in a three-minute first-half spell, the first from the spot after a Nicola Murru handball.

The 29-year-old striker ran rings around the Sampdoria defence after picking up a long Francesco Acerbi ball to put his team three up after 20 minutes.

Immobile converted a second penalty on 65 minutes after Angolan defender Bastos tapped in nine minutes after the break, bringing his tally to 23 goals this season -- three more than Sampdoria have scored.

Sampdoria played the final quarter of an hour a man down after Julian Chabot was sent off bringing down Bobby Adekanye.

Karol Linetty pulled a goal back for the Genoa side after 69 minutes, but Claudio Ranieri's side are now 16th, five points above the relegation zone.

"I'm very happy, but we know that there must be no rest," said Inzaghi after his 100th victory on the Lazio bench.

"We'll enjoy these 11 successes plus the Italian Super Cup but now we first have the Italian Cup with Napoli and then the (Roman) derby."

Ranieri lamented "the worst game" since he took over in October.

"Lazio were magnificent," said the former Leicester City boss.

"They are having fun and play with heart, we will see at the end of March early April where they will be and in what condition."

- Torino fall -

In Reggio Emilia, Sassuolo eased their relegation fears with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Europa League hopefuls Torino.

The hosts fell behind after Manuel Locatelli turned into his own net after 20 minutes.

But Ivory Coast international Jeremie Boga turned the game around after an hour, picking up the ball in midfield to fire in a stunning goal from a distance.

The former Chelsea player then set up Domenico Berardi for the winner on 73 minutes to end a run of three consecutive defeats and earn a first win since November 8.

Torino remain eighth but can be overtaken by Hellas Verona and AC Milan, who play on Sunday. Sassuolo are eight points above the drop zone.

Napoli, in 11th place, host 14th-placed Fiorentina later on Saturday looking for a win after back-to-back defeats.

Lazio's Italian forward Ciro Immobile has scored 23 goals in 19 games this season

Ecuadorian Felipe Caicedo got Lazio off the mark in the Stadio Olimpico

Jeremie Boga (R) scored and set up another goal to ease Sassuolo's relegation worries.