Gonzalo Higuain broke his Serie A duck while Marek Hamsik and Alberto Paloschi bagged braces in Napoli’s thrilling 4-2 win at Chievo.
Lorenzo Insigne stepped in for Goran Pandev, while Higuain was able to start despite needing eight stitches to his face when diving on to a rock in the sea off Capri this week. Pepe Reina marked his 31st birthday and hoped to improve Napoli’s poor record here, losing their last three Bentegodi trips without scoring a goal. Dario Dainelli was the only Chievo absentee.
Reina risked ruining his birthday after a couple of minutes when Alberto Paloschi pinched the ball during a clearance to fire wide, but the referee had judged it an unfair challenge anyway. Higuain stung Christian Puggioni’s palms at the near post and it was a warning, as Napoli broke through on 13 minutes.
Insigne rolled across for Marek Hamsik on the edge of the box and his fierce drive ricocheted in off the inside of the upright. It was the Slovak’s third goal in just two games this season.
Chievo drew level with a splendid Perparim Hetemaj volleyed pass across the face of goal for Paloschi to tap in, as he ghosted in behind Miguel Angel Britos to beat a stunned Reina from six yards.
That goal changed the confidence levels on the pitch and Reina back-pedalled furiously to fingertip a deflected Boukary Drame cross over the bar.
However, Napoli restored their advantage almost immediately. Higuain intercepted Gennaro Sardo’s pass to Paul Papp down the left and rolled across for Jose Maria Callejon at the back post. It was the Spaniard’s second goal in as many Serie A games.
It was a mile-a-minute match at the Bentegodi, as moments later Chievo hit the woodwork. Paloschi pounced on a dreadful Christian Maggio backpass and chipped Reina, but the ball bounced off the upright of an empty net and into the grateful arms of the goalkeeper.
Ivan Radovanovic’s screamer was beaten away by Reina only for Cyril Thereau to balloon the follow-up over an empty goal. At the other end, a Higuain give-and-go with Hamsik finished with the angled drive skimming the far post.
Chievo did get it back on level terms again when a corner was not cleared effectively and Paloschi spun round to nutmeg Reina from six yards. It was the Milan-owned striker’s second goal of the afternoon.
After the restart Puggioni palmed away a Gokhan Inler strike and Hamsik got his fourth in two games by being in the right place at the right time. There was chaos in the Chievo box, as Puggioni stuck out a foot to prevent an own goal from a deflected Inler cross, but Hamsik was ready to fire in the loose ball.
Juan Camilo Zuniga’s angled drive shaved a coat of paint off the back post, but Higuain finally scored his debut Serie A goal.
Pipita burst into the box on to an Insigne chipped pass and took advantage of a lucky ricochet to bundle it past Puggioni.
Goran Pandev came off the bench and blasted a powerful deflected effort into the side-netting, while Acosty tested Reina and Insigne's shot was charged down in the box.