Crotone’s hopes of an automatic promotion to Serie A received a boost after they beat Serie B champions-elect Benevento on Friday to move to second place, thanks to a hat-trick by Nigeria striker Simeone Nwankwo.
The 28-year-old netted twice in the first half and added a third 19 minutes from time to hand Crotone a well-deserved 3-0 win at Stadio Ezio Scida, to extend the Grecian’s unbeaten run to eight games.
With Filippo Inzhagi’s Benevento already securing the Serie B title and an automatic elevation to the Italian top flight, a number of clubs — including Cittadella, Pordenone, Frosinone and Spezia — are looking to grab the second automatic promotion spot.
Interestingly, with six round of games left to play, that ambition now looks realistic for Giovanni Stroppa’s team, after Nwankwo ended a four-game goal drought to help the Sharks get past the side that were relegated from the Serie A alongside them at the end of the 2017-18 campaign — and move three points clear of fellow promotion-chasing Cittadella and Pordenone.
Nwankwo rose highest in the 14th minute to nod home Alberto Gerbo’s cross to give the Kroton club the lead. He increased the advantage four minutes later, finishing at the near post after getting past his marker.
On 71 minutes, the forward volleyed in from six metres to put the game beyond the leaders, whom they now trail by 21 points.
The hat-trick took the Nigeria international’s league goals tally to 16 for the season — just one behind top scorer Stefano Pettinari, who plays for Trapani.
The next two fixtures could potentially be decisive for Nwankwo’s side.
Crotone visit Cittadella on Friday, before facing Pordenone three days later.
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