Napoli continued their strong home record with Jose Maria Callejon and Marek Hamsik scorchers, but Catania only lost 2-1.
The Partenopei were feeling confident after a 2-1 midweek win at Fiorentina, but Christian Maggio was suspended with the injured Juan Camilo Zuniga and Miguel Angel Britos. The Elefantini were in crisis, failing to score since Gigi De Canio replaced Rolando Maran, while Gonzalo Bergessio was ruled out for two months with a fractured fibula in Wednesday’s 4-0 defeat to Juventus. Tiberio Guarente was banned with absentees including Nicolas Spolli, Giuseppe Bellusci, Pablo Barrientos and Jaroslav Plasil.
Catania’s only ever Serie A victory at the San Paolo was 1-0 in 1960-61.
Rafa Benitez lost Giandomenico Mesto to a knee injury almost immediately, making way for Brazilian defender Bruno Uvini, but surprisingly not Paolo Cannavaro. It was the Brazilian’s first appearance of the season.
Gonzalo Higuain nodded a Pablo Armero cross just over the bar, but it was Jose Maria Callejon who broke the deadlock with a stunning strike. He gathered outside the box and curled a magnificent left-foot finish into the far top corner, leaving Mariano Andujar no chance.
Andujar did get his palms to a Higuain effort after exchanging passes with Marek Hamsik, but the Slovak got the second goal set up by Lorenzo Insigne for a powerful left-foot finish under the bar.
Catania had not even scored yet under Coach De Canio, but broke that drought when the Napoli defence was caught out. Cristian Biraghi rolled across for Lucas Castro to turn in relatively unmarked.
Hamsik tried to score from midfield and was not far off target, while Gyomber charged down a Higuain strike.
After the restart Andujar stuck out a hand to palm Higuain’s finish round the near post when sent through by Callejon. Federico Fernandez nodded a corner off target from a very promising position and Andujar again used one hand to push Hamsik’s screamer out from under the bar.
The Catania goalkeeper used his legs to charge down a central Higuain effort after great work from Insigne. Hamsik’s attempt from a corner was charged down by Panagiotis Tachtsidis in the six-yard box, then Andujar again used a foot to deny Raul Albiol’s downward header at the back post.
Hamsik threaded through for Higuain, whose angled drive beat Andujar only to skim the upright, then Callejon’s curler whistled just wide. Catania were still in it and Pepe Reina plucked a Keko header out of the air and the youngster also flashed a shot across the face of goal.