Blerim Dzemaili fought back to earn Napoli a 1-1 draw away to penultimate club Novara after an Ivan Radovanovic scare.
Walter Mazzarri’s men were still buzzing from their midweek Champions League climb into the knockouts, so he took that enthusiasm by playing the four ‘tenors,’ as Goran Pandev joined Marek Hamsik, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani. Novara had Riccardo Meggiorini suspended, Andrea Lisuzzo and Massimo Paci injured.
This is the second time Napoli have played on an artificial pitch, as they won away to Cesena. The Partenopei were wearing their yellow away strip with light blue shorts.
Novara had the first chance, as Giuseppe Gemiti’s snapshot stung Morgan De Sanctis’ palms. At the other end, Pandev couldn’t keep his header down and drilled over the bar. Raffaele Rubino’s header back across the face of goal caused some concern in the Napoli defence.
Samir Ujkani came tearing off his line to flap a dangerous chipped Hamsik pass off the feet of Cavani. Marco Rigoni nodded a corner over the bar, but the visitors went very close on 34 minutes when Andrea Dossena’s cross from the left found Christian Maggio’s powerful header inches wide at the back post.
Soon after, Salvatore Aronica needed a desperate intervention to stop Rubino tapping in Gemiti’s cross, aided by the fact the Novara striker had mistimed his shot.
Lavezzi controlled a cross-field Pandev ball, but tried to cut in and was blocked off by Centurioni.
After the restart Rubino only glanced his head on the Gemiti ball that flashed across the face of goal. Andrea Mazzarani flicked a wayward Radovanovic angled drive over the bar from a very promising position.
Novara were more attacking in the second half, as Rubino got past Aronica to fire his angled drive across the six-yard box.
The pressure paid off, as on 70 minutes a free kick was touched on for the Radovanovic right-foot rocket from distance that flew in at the near post. The sheer power behind it beat De Sanctis and the Napoli defensive wall did not help his cause either.
Lavezzi was tripped for a free kick on the edge of the box that Blerim Dzemaili hit straight at the wall. Juan Zuniga came on for Napoli to go 4-3-3 and Lavezzi drilled into Ujkani’s arms.
They got their equaliser in chaotic circumstances, as Lavezzi’s pull-back was met by a Hamsik fresh-air shot, but it turned into an assist for Dzemaili’s fierce strike from the edge of the box.
The Partenopei wanted the win now, as Ujkani smothered a Lavezzi angled drive and Maggio ballooned his volley over from seven yards at the back post.
Deep into stoppages, Pandev got to a deflected cross before the goalkeeper and fell to the ground, but the referee waved play on. Replays suggest the Macedonian tripped over his own feet.