Napoli were furious with the referee after a last-gasp Goran Pandev goal was mysteriously disallowed, as they were held by Cesena’s catenaccio.
The Partenopei couldn’t seem to translate their Champions League form to Serie A this season and had to do without the suspended Ezequiel Lavezzi. Paolo Cannavaro was only fit for the bench and Marek Hamsik rested in favour of a new trident with Blerim Dzemaili and Goran Pandev. Cesena missed Djokovic and Massimo Lauro for this difficult trip. These sides also met in the Coppa Italia on January 12 with Napoli fighting back for a 2-1 win.
Edinson Cavani had a great opportunity in the second minute, but was stopped by an incorrect offside decision.
Cavani tried to take advantage of an early Francesco Antonioli error, then the veteran goalkeeper had to rush off his line to close down at Cavani’s feet. Pandev turned just wide, as Napoli dominated the play, but struggled to make a dent in the Cesena back line.
Antonioli had his palms stung by a Pandev half-volley from the edge of the box on 27 minutes. A Dzemaili strike accidentally hit teammate Cavani to go out of play.
Something had to change, so Marek Hamsik replaced the disappointing Gokhan Inler at half-time, returning Dzemaili to midfield. Steve Von Bergen was booked for a handling offence, as he parried Hamsik’s snapshot just outside the area.
Cavani was unlucky on 57 minutes, as he was denied by the woodwork, as his towering header on Andrea Dossena’s cross cracked against the bar.
Hamsik was halted by a terrible offside decision, as there were three Cesena players keeping him in line. Cesena Coach Daniele Arrigoni was sent off in the final minutes for leaving his technical area, but the visitors were defending with 10 men for almost the entire match.
With 10 minutes left, 41-year-old Antonioli performed a stunning save to deny Pandev, at full stretch fingertipping the curler round the base of the upright. Yet Napoli risked defeat at the 82nd, as Vincenzo Rennella pounced on a Walter Gargano backpass and hit the ankles of Morgan De Sanctis.
In stoppages Cavani managed to get round Antonioli, but his finish was cleared off the line by Gianluca Comotto!
Pandev put the ball in the net at the 91st, but the whistle had already gone. It’s not entirely clear why, as there were no offsides and Christian Maggio appeared to chest the ball down rather than handle it.