Blerim Dzemaili and Lorenzo Insigne gave Napoli a precious 2-0 victory away to Paolo Cannavaro’s Sassuolo.
These sides drew 1-1 at the San Paolo in a shock result earlier this season. It was a very special day for Paolo Cannavaro, who only left hometown club Napoli two weeks ago. Aleandro Rosi sat out a ban with Thomas Manfredini, Emanuele Terranova, Davide Biondini, Alexe, Gabriele Masucci and Francesco Magnanelli sidelined. Pepe Reina was not 100 per cent fit and replaced by Rafael, while Jorginho, Gokhan Inler and Jose Callejon were suspended.
A smart Marek Hamsik dummy left two defenders stranded, but his left-foot finish only skimmed the base of the upright. The Slovak also blasted off target in a sluggish start for the Partenopei.
They suddenly moved up a gear on the half-hour with two chances in quick succession. Gianluca Pegolo did brilliantly to parry Gonzalo Higuain’s effort from point-blank range, then moments later made himself big to deny Lorenzo Insigne at the near post.
Pegolo performed another fine save on Higuain, who had shaken off Cannavaro, but he was finally beaten by Blerim Dzemaili. The Swiss midfielder gathered outside the box and his shot bounced through a sea of legs to surprise Pegolo. The assist was from January signing Faouzi Ghoulam.
Dries Mertens flashed a dangerous ball across the face of goal with nobody ready to tap it in. Napoli did double their lead with a marvellous Lorenzo Insigne finish, as he burst into the box down the left flank and curled a right-foot finish round the goalkeeper.
Simone Zaza’s angled drive skimmed the far post, but Goran Pandev nearly scored an astonishing goal when he juggled with the ball in the air, doing a form of keepy-uppy to turn between two defenders, but Pegolo rushed off his line to close him down.
Rafael also needed a late save on a fierce Sansone angled strike and Mertens hit the side-netting, but Insigne missed when sent clear on goal by Pandev.
It could’ve been 3-0 in the final minutes, but Dzemaili’s screamer thumped against the crossbar.