Napoli fumbled their lead repeatedly despite Goran Pandev’s brace in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Udinese.
The Partenopei rotated their squad with Rafael and Anthony Reveillere getting their Serie A debuts, while Miguel Angelo Britos was suspended along with the injured Marek Hamsik, Juan Zuniga and Giandomenico Mesto. Antonio Di Natale missed the trip to his hometown club for the third time in the last four years, so with Luis Muriel and Matias Ranegie also out, Uruguay Under-20 starlet Nico Lopez was given a rare start.
It wasn’t the most reassuring debut for 23-year-old ex-Santos goalkeeper Rafael, as after seven minutes his footwork let him down and he almost let the ball roll over the line from a backpass. He did better a few minutes later, beating away a Bruno Fernandes snapshot.
Allan needed a clearance practically on the line to deny Raul Albiol’s looping header from a corner, while Lorenzo Insigne curled off target.
Rafael scrambled across to fingertip round the near post after the Fernandes effort took a double deflection off Albiol and Reveillere. From that corner, Thomas Heurtaux’s header was over the bar.
Napoli seemed uninspired, but took the lead from a dead ball situation. Federico Fernandez knocked down an Insigne corner for Goran Pandev, who turned in from six yards.
Moments later the Macedonia international was on target again. Gonzalo Higuain dribbled to the by-line and pulled back for Pandev, who spun on the spot to drill into the far bottom corner.
Roberto Pereyra had the chance to get Udinese back into it on the counter, but fired across the face of goal rather than wait to pass for Fernandes.
The Friulani did score with the last kick of the first half, as a corner found Heurtaux’s header and the desperate attempt to clear from Fernandez instead went into his own net.
Brkic at full stretch flapped a cross away from Pandev to prevent a hat-trick, while Christian Maggio had penalty appeals for a two-way tackle from Gabriel Silva and Danilo, but the defender seemed to get the ball.
Jose Maria Callejon’s half-volley from a corner was deflected over the bar and a Blerim Dzemaili free kick whizzed past the post.
Udinese introduced forward Maicosuel for Heurtaux, moving Dusan Basta and Gabriel Silva into a four-man defence.
It certainly proved effective, albeit with the aid of Napoli errors. Reveillere’s pass was intercepted in the final third and Bruno Fernandes kept his cool to lob Rafael from 25 metres.
The situation lasted barely 120 seconds until Napoli restored their advantage. Higuain sprung the offside trap on a Pandev pass and his finish at the near post was palmed into the path of Dzemaili for a tap-in.
Moments later Rafael had his palms stung by a Maicosuel screamer, then Brkic parried an Insigne counter-attack and this time Dzemaili wasn’t close enough to finish it off.
Albiol deflected another Maicosuel attempt from distance and from that corner Udinese made it 3-3. The defence was very static, giving Dusan Basta far too much time to prod home from six yards.
Maicosuel was about to give the visitors the lead 60 seconds later when he sprung the offside trap to go clear on goal, but Maggio performed an absolutely decisive sliding tackle. Francesco Guidolin was sent off for protesting, as Maggio appeared to be tugging the jersey first, but the Brazilian kept running. Maurizio Domizzi was booked and will be suspended for next week's game with Torino.
Both teams had the chances to win it right to the death in a wide open game, but this will be seen as two more dropped points for Rafa Benitez.