Napoli squeezed past Udinese with a hard-fought 2-1 victory to stay joint top of the table with Juventus, but it was far from easy.
Both sides were involved in high-profile Europa League ties on Thursday night. While Udinese earned an historic 3-2 victory at Liverpool’s Anfield Road, the Partenopei were hammered 3-0 by PSV Eindhoven. Miguel Angel Britos was injured and Paolo Cannavaro suspended, so Federico Fernandez stepped into the defence. The Friulani missed Luis Muriel, Emmanuel Badu and Dusan Basta for this trip, but Maicosuel was picked alongside native Neapolitan Antonio Di Natale.
Udinese’s record here in Serie A was of four wins, 10 draws and 16 defeats, but it did include three victories in the last seven visits.
The Friulani in their all-black strip had the first real chance with Di Natale flicking over from close range with the outside of his boot, then Marek Hamsik’s long-range screamer was beaten away and Goran Pandev drilled wide.
Zeljko Brkic did brilliantly to smother an Edinson Cavani header from Pandev’s cross at the back post, requiring a reaction save from a couple of yards.
Napoli had penalty appeals for a potential handling offence, as it was from point-blank range and Hamsik kicked it up on to Giampiero Pinzi’s arm.
The Partenopei broke through with a trademark goal, as Cavani provided a backheel flick for Cristian Maggio, who rolled across for Hamsik and the first-time toe-poke wrong-footed Brkic to roll into the empty net.
Pandev should’ve made it 2-0 just before the break when Cavani drew away defenders to roll a through ball, but the Macedonian was a fraction too late to make contact.
Moments later Udinese drew level with a classic counter-attack. The ball was won back in midfield and Maicosuel spread it to the right for Pinzi to control and smash an angled drive across Morgan De Sanctis.
However, in first half stoppages Pandev restored Napoli’s advantage with a splendid turn in the box to fire in at the near post.
After the restart Maggio nodded a corner inches over the bar in what was so nearly an own goal. A crucial Danilo tackle stopped Hamsik when surging clear on goal from an Inler through ball.
Maicosuel’s chest and volley whistled wide, while an Allan sliding tackle intercepted Lorenzo Insigne’s smart pass for Hamsik in the box.
Udinese were threatening and introduced striker Mathias Ranegie for midfielder Pinzi. Danilo was booked for tripping Cavani just outside the box, but the Uruguayan’s free kick was off target.
Maicosuel wanted a penalty and earned a yellow card for diving, while Hamsik’s left-foot scorcher swerved just past the post.
Francesco Guidolin was sent off for dissent in the final stages. Insigne had the chance to seal it, but fired at Brkic when Cavani was unmarked.
In stoppages Marco Davide Faraoni’s solo effort whistled just wide of the upright for Udinese.