Napoli are top of the table for at least one night, as Marek Hamsik and Paolo Cannavaro gave them a 2-0 victory over Catania.
The Partenopei have caught Juventus as joint leaders, at least until the Bianconeri face Chievo on Sunday, though Christian Maggio was still out after fracturing a bone in his hand, while Hugo Campagnaro and Miguel Angel Britos were suspended. It gave Gianluca Grava his first game of the season just weeks after his six-month ban was quashed on appeal in the betting scandal.
Catania were looking for a club record fourth consecutive victory and welcomed back Gonzalo Bergessio and Francesco Lodi from bans, but Lucas Castro and Pablo Alvarez were suspended. Alexis Rolin stepped in for the unwell Nicola Legrottaglie.
In the opening 15 seconds Goran Pandev fired just over the bar under the pouring rain, then Paolo Cannavaro’s overhead kick was charged down in the box.
Napoli finally broke through on the half-hour mark with Marek Hamsik’s first goal against Catania. Juan Camilo Zuniga’s angled drive turned into an assist for Hamsik to side-foot home from six yards at the back post, as he snuck up undisturbed.
Hamsik held up a shirt urging Carmelo Imbriani not to give up, as the 36-year-old former Napoli player is battling cancer.
Catania were furious, as they had strong penalty appeals for a Zuniga handling offence waved away and Napoli immediately went on the counter. From that situation the home side earned a free kick, which Edinson Cavani smacked against the crossbar.
The tension escalated and a row broke out involving numerous players when Grava appeared to shove Alejandro Gomez in an off the ball situation. The veteran defender was booked.
Catania wasted a golden opportunity when Pablo Barrientos fired wide with only the goalkeeper to beat. The flag was raised late for an offside and replays showed he was clearly not in an incorrect position.
Pandev’s angled drive was blocked at full stretch by Mariano Andujar, but it was captain Cannavaro who scored on the stroke of half-time. A corner wasn’t cleared properly and Hamsik rolled back across the face of goal for the defender to tap in. There were three Napoli players who were kept onside by Ciro Capuano and were also behind the ball.
It was the perfect way for Cannavaro to mark his 259th appearance in a Napoli jersey, matching the tally achieved by Diego Armando Maradona.
Morgan De Sanctis smothered a Barrientos snapshot, as Catania tried to fight back.
The Elefantini thought they had got one back within two minutes of the restart, but it was disallowed because Bergessio pulled Zuniga down so he could get into position for a free header on the Gomez corner.
That seemed to scare Napoli, who increasingly sat back and looked nervous. There was a chance that Cavani nodded over the bar, but De Sanctis flew to palm away a trademark Lodi free kick and Cavani had to acrobatically clear the follow-up.
The rain continued to fall and a huge gust of wind blew over some advertising boards behind the Napoli goal.
Blerim Dzemaili wasn’t quite quick enough to finish off a Hamsik counter-attack, while Lodi and Barrientos curled off target.
Cavani went on a mazy solo run down the left after a stunning Lorenzo Insigne volleyed pass and was unlucky to see his shot charged down.