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Gonzalo Higuain keeps Napoli on title track after defeat of Palermo

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Gonzalo Higuain converted a penalty to help Napoli defeat Palermo on Sunday.

Gonzalo Higuain's penalty saw Napoli squeeze past Palermo 1-0 and maintain their pursuit of the Serie A title.

The Azzurri are three points behind reigning champions and current leaders Juventus with nine games remaining after former Real Madrid striker Higuain matched his career-best haul of 27 league goals in a season.

Walter Novellino's Palermo, meanwhile, are flirting with relegation as 18th-placed Frosinone are just one point behind them.

Napoli flew out of the traps and almost beat Stefano Sorrentino inside two minutes as Lorenzo Insigne latched on to Allan's through ball.

The chance to score was handed to the visitors when Sinisa Andjelkovic fouled Raul Albiol in the 22nd minute, with Higuain needing no encouragement to convert from the spot.

Palermo might have levelled just before half-time but swift interplay between Alberto Gilardino and Franco Vazquez came to nothing as Jose Reina stuck out a glove at just the right time.

Wary of succumbing to a second-half equaliser, Napoli got to work chasing a second goal when play resumed and Insigne might have found it from a one-on-one with Sorrentino shortly before the hour.

Palermo's seasoned keeper said no, however, and he was found standing tall again when Insigne tried to beat him with a swerving left-footed drive.

A more formidable foe, Higuain, came knocking in the 74th minute, but once more Sorrentino ensured the ball missed the target.

His stirring shift in between the sticks was complete when he repelled Dries Mertens following the Belgian's clever one-two with Higuain.

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