Miralem Pjanic’s brace gave Roma their eighth straight win, as 10-man Napoli capitulated in the Scudetto showdown despite great chances.
This was a top of the table showdown as leaders Roma were just two points in front of Napoli thanks to their 100 per cent record. Dodo stepped in for the suspended Federico Balzaretti and Douglas Maicon returned from injury. The visitors welcomed back Christian Maggio, but Gonzalo Higuain, Pablo Armero and Juan Camilo Zuniga were not fit to start, so ex-Lazio striker Goran Pandev took the centre-forward role.
It was a special day for Morgan De Sanctis, who faced his former teammates for the first time. Diego Armando Maradona was in the stands, though he arrived eight minutes late due to a transport strike.
Miguel Angel Britos charged down a Miralem Pjanic effort in the box and Daniele De Rossi’s header was central, but on 15 minutes Gervinho sprung the offside trap down the left after a Francesco Totti backheel flick only to fire just wide of the near top corner.
Totti received treatment for a twinge on the back of his thigh, which had bothered him all week, and made way for Marco Borriello. While Roma were down to 10 men, Marek Hamsik had the first real Napoli chance with a header well wide.
Moments later Napoli could not have gone closer to taking the lead. Pandev sprung the offside trap and was clear on goal, but De Sanctis got a hand to the finish, allowing De Rossi to get back for an acrobatic goalline clearance.
Alessandro Florenzo also threatened, his angled drive whistling wide from the edge of the box, while Kevin Strootman’s long-range strike flew over.
On the stroke of half-time Napoli lost Britos to a shoulder injury and hit the woodwork, as Lorenzo Insigne stayed up after a Maicon trip and struck the base of the near post.
Paolo Cannavaro had been on for only two minutes when he was booked for bringing down Gervinho. From that free kick just outside the box, Pjanic curled a stunning effort over the wall and into the near top corner. It topped off a stunning week for Pjanic, who helped Bosnia qualify for their first ever World Cup.
After the restart a Gokhan Inler snapshot whistled inches past the upright and Napoli started very strong, but Gervinho also picked up an injury. De Rossi almost scored from close range, but seemed surprised the corner came through to him and turned off target.
Marek Hamsik clipped the outside of the woodwork, though De Sanctis seemed to have it covered, as it was all Napoli now. Roma relied on the counter and Maicon’s ball across the six-yard box beat Reina, but Florenzi couldn’t get the decisive touch.
There was a turning point in the game, as the referee awarded a penalty and a second yellow card for Cannavaro’s tussle with Borriello. However, replays suggest the striker was pulling the defender’s jersey just as much. Napoli went down to 10 men and Pjanic completed his brace, blasting a powerful spot-kick into the near top corner.
Even a man down, the Partenopei continued to push and De Sanctis smothered an Inler strike while Roma allowed their opponents most of the possession. The Giallorossi held on, having won all eight games with one goal conceded and 22 scored.
Sent off: Cannavaro 70 (N)