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Serie A: Napoli down Udinese in tetchy affair

ROME, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Argentine forward Ezequiel Lavezzi scored twice to help Napoli beat fifth-placed Udinese 3-1 on Saturday in an eventful Serie A game that ended with both sides down to 10 men.

Napoli made a superb start, with Marcelo Zalayeta and Matteo Contini hitting the crossbar before Udinese's Colombian defender Cristian Zapata turned a Lavezzi cross into his own net to concede the lead in the third minute.

The visitors levelled five minutes later when striker Simone Pepe snuck behind the Napoli defence to half-volley home a Gaetano D'Agostino free kick.

Pepe hit the post with a shot from the right wing shortly before Napoli defender Paolo Cannavaro's 36th-minute red card for bringing down Zapata as he sprinted towards goal.

Pepe followed Cannavaro to the changing room in 60th when he was harshly given a second yellow card for diving.

Lavezzi drove home a venomous strike in the 74th and chipped over Udinese keeper Samir Handanovic a minute later to claim the spoils.

After 21 games, Udinese have 33 points, 17 behind leaders Inter Milan, who entertain strugglers Empoli on Sunday.

Napoli are ninth with 27 points, one behind Palermo, who beat Livorno 1-0 at home earlier on Saturday to end a run of three league defeats.

Palermo striker Fabrizio Miccoli decided the game in the 77th minute with a right-footed shot from the edge of the area after the ball squirted from a goalmouth scramble.

In the first half Palermo keeper Alberto Fontana repelled a Francesco Tavano penalty and produced superb saves to stop a short-range Erjon Bogdani effort and a Tavano shot.