A controversial Edinson Cavani penalty allowed Napoli to fight back for a disappointing 1-1 home draw against Bologna.
The Partenopei were still without Ezequiel Lavezzi, so Goran Pandev completed the trident with Marek Hamsik and Edinson Cavani. Bologna surprisingly gave ex-Grenoble starlet Saphir Taider his first start, as Gaston Ramirez is not 100 per cent fit, while the absentee list included Alessandro Diamanti, Panagiotis Kone, Simone Loria and the suspended Daniele Portanova.
Napoli somehow failed to open the scoring on nine minutes, as a set piece was knocked back into the box for Hamsik, but Jean-Francois Gillet came flying off his line to parry from point-blank range.
Marco Di Vaio went on a rapid counter and fired straight at Morgan De Sanctis, but moments later Bologna took the surprise lead.
Hugo Campagnaro slipped when trying to intercept Nico Pulzetti’s cross, allowing Robert Acquafresca to go totally clear on goal and beat the on-rushing De Sanctis. It was a fine way for the former Cagliari striker to celebrate his 150th Serie A appearance.
Cavani fell under a muscular challenge from Pulzetti, but the referee judged it to be shoulder to shoulder. Gillet blocked Pandev’s solo run at the by-line after Cavani had run into the back of a defender. Hamsik was furious when his strike took an obvious deflection to whistle wide, but the referee did not award a corner.
Pandev curled just past the far top corner from Gokhan Inler’s assist, while after the break Napoli had a golden opportunity to draw level. A corner was flicked on into the six-yard box for Pandev, but Archimede Morleo was stuck to him like glue and prevented the Macedonian from turning.
Juan Zuniga came on as the home side moved to a 4-2-3-1 system. Pandev pounced on a lucky ricochet only for Nicolo’ Cherubin to fling himself between the shot and near post.
Salvatore Aronica’s fierce strike was well plucked out of the air by Gillet, but at the other end Di Vaio sprung the offside trap and rolled across for Acquafresca and Christian Maggio’s interception almost turned into an own goal.
Gillet smartly got in the way of Paolo Cannavaro’s cross to Pandev, but there was a moment of controversy that infuriated Bologna.
The referee awarded a free kick on the edge of the box for a Diego Perez handling offence, but then received a call from his assistant to confirm contact was inside the area, so pointed to the spot. Bologna insisted it had been unintentional. Cavani stepped up and thumped a powerful penalty down the middle to beat Gillet. Hamsik had been the designated taker this season, but already failed to convert both attempts, so handed it over to El Matador.
More bad news for Bologna, as Pulzetti pulled up mid-sprint clutching the back of his leg in a likely thigh strain. Napoli threw on Eduardo Vargas for his Serie A debut and an all-attack line-up in the final minutes.
Zuniga’s screamer was charged down, but they left huge gaps at the back and Gaston Ramirez rolled across for the unmarked Di Vaio, forcing Zuniga into a truly desperate last-gasp tackle from eight yards.
Even Cristiano Lucarelli came on for stoppages, but it was De Sanctis who needed a tough save to deny Di Vaio.