Dries Mertens scored on his first Napoli start since December as Gennaro Gattuso’s side earned a 2-0 win over Benevento to go sixth in Serie A.

The Belgian striker quickly made an impact on his return from injury, guiding a deflected shot in from close range after 34 minutes.

Matteo Politano bundled in a second after the break to seal a much-needed win.

The three points will come as a relief to Gattuso, who has faced criticism following a run of three defeats in five Serie A games and a Europa League last-32 exit to Spanish side Granada.

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The scoreline could have been more convincing, as Piotr Zielinski’s first half strike was disallowed for offside and Kalidou Koulibaly could only head wide from six yards.

It was a night to forget for the Senegalese defender, who was sent off for a second yellow card on the 81st minute after a clumsy challenge.

Napoli move ahead of Lazio into sixth place, but both sides have 43 points, while Benevento are 16th with 25 points and without a league win in eight matches.