Chievo earned a surprise 1-1 draw at Napoli, as Raul Albiol snatched a point after they hit the woodwork three times.
The Partenopei needed a boost after their surprise 2-2 draw at Bologna saw them slip further away from the top two. Pepe Reina and new signing Jorginho were only ready for the bench, while Pablo Armero, Juan Zuniga, Giandomenico Mesto, Valon Behrami and the suspended Federico Fernandez missed out. The Flying Donkeys had taken off points off Milan and Inter recently, though they lost at home to Parma last week.
Marek Hamsik made his first Serie A start since November and his cross-shot tested Christian Puggioni, while Cristian Maggio had to intercept a dangerous cross for Alberto Paloschi. Dries Mertens got on the end of a Maggio cross for his header inches over the bar.
Dario Dainelli was decisive to pluck the ball off Hamsik’s foot from 10 yards after great work from Gonzalo Higuain.
However, it was Chievo who took a surprise lead at the San Paolo. Gennaro Sardo burst down the right and combined with Cyril Thereau to then smash a powerful finish off his toes into the far top corner. The Napoli defence was caught out, not for the first time this season. Curiously, this was the second career goal against Napoli for native Neapolitan Sardo.
The Partenopei incredibly failed to equalise on 25 minutes. Jose Callejon’s angled drive had beaten Puggioni and was going wide, so found Higuain at the back post, but Pipita incredibly managed to knock it back across the face of goal from a yard out! It was an absolutely astonishing miss.
Mertens also had a golden opportunity, but was unlucky as his effort from a tight angle thumped the outside of the near post after Callejon had intelligently spread the play. Puggioni smothered a low Callejon effort before the break, but the last chance of the first half saw Boukary Drame’s cross deflected to scare Rafael.
Straight after the restart Hamsik skipped a challenge for his deflected shot to loop over the bar, then Raul Albiol ballooned over when Puggioni palmed a Higuain cross into his path.
Puggioni rushed off his line to stop Higuain pouncing on a Simone Bentivoglio back-pass, then Higuain turned wide from six yards.
Jorginho made his Napoli debut precisely a week after arriving in a co-ownership deal from Hellas Verona.
The hosts were again unfortunate, as a Mertens free kick struck the upright for the second time in the game. For the most part, the pressure was hardly a problem for Chievo, who held on to their lead fairly comfortably. It was a remarkable match considering the Flying Donkeys were without a Serie A victory since early December with just two points from six rounds.
Lorenzo Insigne came off the bench and his rising strike clipped the crossbar, as Napoli rattled the woodwork for the third time.
They finally got the ball in the net rather than on the frame with just two minutes to go. A corner fell to Raul Albiol and a lucky deflection allowed him to squirm the finish between Puggioni and the near post.
The goal finally broke through Napoli’s psychological block and Insigne tested Puggioni with a low drive, but it was too little, too late.