SERIE A | NAPOLI

Higuain facing ban after "losing the plot" in Udinese game

Gonzalo Higuaín's impressive scoring streak is expected to be halted by an imminent ban that could end Napoli's bid for a long-awaited Serie A title.

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Higuain facing ban after "losing the plot" in Udinese game
LANCIA EFE

Gonzalo Higuaín's impressive scoring streak in Serie A is expected to be halted by an imminent ban that could end Napoli's bid for a long-awaited Serie A title.

Higuaín hit his 30th league goal of the campaign on Sunday to pull to within five goals of retired AC Milan striker Gunnar Nordahl's all-time record of 35 goals in a single, 20-team Serie A season. But the Argentine striker lost the plot after being issued a red card late in Napoli's 3-1 defeat to Udinese which left them six points adrift of leaders and champions Juventus.

Higuaín shoved referee Massimiliano Irrati, then had to be restrained by fellow players as he angrily remonstrated with Udinese player Felipe as he sat on the turf following a challenge. According to widespread reports Monday, Higuain now risks a 'minimum' three-match ban.

Former referee and referee's chief Paolo Casarin said Higuaín's shove "can't be ignored" and although he said everything "will depend on Irrati's match report", the Argentina striker is expected to pay dearly. “I think Higuaín quickly realised the gravity of the situation,” Casarin told Radio Rai. “An eight-game ban seems exaggerated to me, but players have to stop approaching referees in this manner. Players have to stop playing at acrobats when they're fouled... but Higuaín's shove can't be ignored”.

Serie A officials will deliver the verdict in the coming days and, if confirmed, it could end Napoli's hopes of a first league title since Diego Maradona played his penultimate season at the club in 1990. With 30 league goals so far, Higuaín has been the driving force behind Napoli's title charge this season although the team, on the whole, has excelled under the guidance of coach Maurizio Sarri.

In a bad-tempered display at the Friuli Stadium on Sunday, Sarri was sent to the stands for dissent having protested the award of a second penalty to the hosts, which Napoli keeper Gabriel saved.

Afterwards, Sarri tried to explain Higuaín's violent reaction. “I didn't see it, because I was sitting down low in the stands, but he told me he just made contact with the player and so he feels the victim of rough justice,” said Sarri. “Gonzalo is very close to this team, to this city, and that's why he reacted in such a manner”.

Higuaín's moment of madness, however, could be decisive for the Azzurri. Napoli have seven games to close their six-point deficit but have an arguably more difficult run-in than Juventus, with away games at Inter Milan and Roma still to come. Four of Juve's remaining seven outings are in Turin and their most difficult game, on paper, is their away trip to Fiorentina on April 24. If Juventus prevail on the final matchday on May 15, the Bianconeri will equal their 1935 record of winning five consecutive league titles.