Marek Hamsik, Dries Mertens and Kalidou Koulibaly made short work of Cagliari, as Napoli dominated in a 3-0 victory.
The Partenopei had won a club record 11 Serie A matches in a row and wanted to maintain their perfect start to the season, but with Arkadiusz Milik undergoing his second ACL surgery in under a year, Dries Mertens was the only available centre-forward. The Sardinians had lost two on the bounce and visited the San Paolo without Andrea Cossu, Luca Ceppitelli, Rafael, Gregory van der Wiel and suspended Fabio Pisacane. Leonardo Pavoletti did make the trip to face his former club after an ill-fated six-month stint here.
Napoli have now won 10 of the last 13 Serie A encounters with Cagliari, drawing the other three, and the last 10 meetings provided a total of 41 goals.
It took all of four minutes to break the deadlock, as Hamsik completed a give-and-go with Dries Mertens, a delightful pass off the outside of the boot, and drilled across the goalkeeper from a tight angle. It was his first goal of the season, the 114th overall, and just one shy of Diego Armando Maradona’s all-time club record.
It should’ve been 2-0 when Mertens turned a defender inside out at the by-line to pull back, but Lorenzo Insigne nodded wide from six yards.
Hamsik drilled off target and Marco Andreolli risked an own goal to stop the captain tapping in a Faouzi Ghoulam cross at the near post and Alessio Cragno’s gloves were stung by Jose Callejon.
Things got worse for Cagliari, who lost Marco Sau to a muscular problem, but Filippo Romagna on his full Serie A debut bundled Mertens over from behind at the end of a typical dizzying passing move. The Belgian got back up to convert the resulting penalty, meaning he has now scored in each of his last nine home games in all competition.
The possession in the first half was 74 per cent, a sign of the clear domination from the hosts. It continued 90 seconds after the restart, as Kalidou Koulibaly was allowed to control a floated in free kick and get two touches, prodding in from close range.
It turned into exhibition football at the San Paolo, as Callejon’s acrobatic volley was off target, then he dribbled past a defender to see Cragno fingertip it out from under the bar.
Hamsik curled wide from the edge of the box, but Napoli tried a bit too hard to complicate things and Allan tried to set up Callejon rather than go for goal on a Mertens assist.
Insigne rolled across the face of goal and nobody was able to tap in, but there were real concerns in the final minutes when Ghoulam fired wide and immediately fell to the ground clutching the back of his thigh. He limped off visibly upset, fearing it could be a hamstring injury. He was replaced by Mario Rui, who finally received his competitive Napoli debut.