Napoli missed two open goals from a yard and rattled the woodwork, but Marek Hamsik eventually squeezed a 1-0 victory over Chievo.
The Partenopei needed to win back their fans – and second place in Serie A – after consecutive defeats to Juventus and Dnipro, but had to do it without Edinson Cavani after he pulled up during training with a thigh problem. Lorenzo Insigne got the nod instead with Goran Pandev.
Chievo also lost their star striker, as Sergio Pellissier failed a last-minute fitness test after three weeks on the treatment table. He joined Alberto Paloschi, Bostjan Cesar, Gennaro Sardo and Lorenzo Squizzi.
The rain was pouring down on the San Paolo and somehow Napoli didn’t get the opening goal after eight minutes. Gokhan Inler’s rocket from distance cannoned off the woodwork and on to Stefano Sorrentino’s back, was rolling towards an empty net until a combination of the goalkeeper, Pandev and defender managed to clear it off the line.
Boukary Drame’ was perhaps fortunate to avoid giving away a penalty for his handling offence in the Napoli box to block a Marek Hamsik header.
Napoli wasted an unbelievable scoring opportunity on 24 minutes when it seemed easier to score! Insigne whipped in the cross and Sorrentino was beaten, but Christian Maggio got underneath it and incredibly nodded over from a yard!
Maggio tried to provide goals rather than score them and whipped a dangerous ball across the face of goal, but Sorrentino got a fingertip to turn it away from Pandev at the back post. The resulting corner came out to Inler for another scorching strike that Sorrentino palmed over the bar.
Napoli continued to miss unbelievable chances! On 38 minutes Insigne rolled back from the by-line and Pandev only had to prod it over the line, but for some reason opted for a scissor kick volley and sent it over the bar from a couple of yards!
Sorrentino smothered an Insigne strike at the near post, but Napoli finally broke the deadlock with Hamsik’s precise left-foot angled drive. He ran on to a Juan Camilo Zuniga through ball and placed the shot past an on-rushing Sorrentino.
Insigne went on the counter-attack from a Chievo corner only to blast over the bar, while Cyril Thereau had one shot charged down and as the move continued the Frenchman volleyed off target from the penalty spot.
Zuniga went off with a thigh problem, but Chievo went down to 10 men as Vacek received a second yellow card for his shirt-tug on Hamsik.
Nonetheless, 10-man Chievo nearly equalised on 81 minutes. Thereau sprung the offside trap and rolled across for Pellissier, who went down in the box under pressure from Hugo Campagnaro, but the referee waved play on.
Sent off: Vacek 78 (C)