Gonzalo Higuain’s penalty gave Napoli a 1-1 draw away to Cagliari, but Jose Callejon’s stunning volley was disallowed and Pepe Reina injured.
The Partenopei wanted to end 2013 on a high after beating Inter 4-2 and welcomed back Reina from injury, but were without Marek Hamsik, Juan Zuniga, Giandomenico Mesto and Paolo Cannavaro. The Sardinians were unbeaten in five and had lost only once at the Sant’Elia this season. Dario Del Fabro started in defence for the suspended Luca Rossettini and Daniele Conti returned from his ban.
Nene had the ball in the net after five minutes, but the offside flag had already been raised and he was booked for carrying on the move. The striker will be suspended for the first match of 2014. Napoli’s defence ran another risk from a corner and Valon Behrami scrambled clear with difficulty.
Cagliari were very aggressive from the start and took a deserved lead. Davide Astori dispossessed Christian Maggio to burst into the box and pulled back for Nene’s low drive from nine yards. The Italy international was caught dawdling on the ball.
Nene limped off soon after with a knee problem to make way for Mauricio Pinilla, while Gonzalo Higuain scuffed his shot from a very promising position and Reina had his palms stung by a Radja Nainggolan volley into the ground.
Goran Pandev was tripped from behind by a clumsy Astori intervention and the referee pointed to the spot. Higuain stepped up and sent Vlada Avramov the wrong way to draw Napoli level in Sardinia.
Nainggolan tried again from distance, but the visitors poured forward and pinned Cagliari back into their own half as time wore on.
There was bad news for Napoli, as in stoppages Reina was taking a goal kick when he suddenly pulled up and clutched the back of his leg. A new muscular problem forced him off, so Rafael Cabral completed the half.
Daniele Dessena scuffed from a good position and Pandev failed to get on the end of an inspired Higuain cross to the back post.
Jose Maria Callejon thought he had scored an absolutely sensational goal with his volley from the edge of the box that he kept low into the far bottom corner. However, it was flagged offside in an extremely tight decision.
Mauricio Pinilla’s glancing header whistled just wide of the back stick, but Dries Mertens threatened a winner at the 88th minute when he pounced on a defensive error only for the angled drive to shave a coat of paint off the far post.
Marco Sau fired straight at Rafael to conclude a disappointing second half.