Edinson Cavani had a penalty saved, but scored twice in four minutes to give Napoli a thrilling 2-2 draw against 10-man Udinese.
Both teams crashed out of Europe this week and went head-to-head for a Champions League spot, especially as Lazio slipped up earlier this afternoon. Ezequiel Lavezzi and Christian Maggio were out after picking up injuries against Chelsea, while Marek Hamsik was only fit for the bench. Udinese had Neapolitan Antonio Di Natale supported by Diego Fabbrini, but missed Dusan Basta, Mehdi Benatia, Emmanuel Badu and Mauricio Isla.
Maurizio Domizzi crucially stopped Edinson Cavani converting a Goran Pandev through ball, while Giovanni Pasquale put pressure on El Matador from another Pandev assist, this time the Uruguayan fired wide of the far post. Pandev went for goal himself, an angled drive smothered by Samir Handanovic.
Udinese also threatened from a corner that was cleared to the edge of the area for a Giampiero Pinzi screamer deflected over the bar.
Andrea Coda was booked for hacking down Cavani in the D, from which Blerim Dzemaili drilled low just past the base of the near post.
Moments later, the Friulani broke the deadlock with one of their classic counter-attacks. Di Natale threaded through for Fabbrini down the right, who rolled across the six-yard box for Pinzi to tap in undisturbed.
A wayward Walter Gargano effort from a free kick move was scuffed over the bar by Domizzi, while at the other end Fabbrini sliced his finish off target when he perhaps should’ve crossed for Di Natale.
Handanovic got down to beat away a rather more accurate Gargano snapshot from distance that dipped just in front of the goalkeeper. Dzemaili had a shot smothered as Napoli pushed forward before half-time, but it left spaces at the back and Giovanni Pasquale’s ball across for Fabbrini was crucially intercepted.
It was 2-0 after the break, as Pinzi’s header from six yards cracked against the upright and Di Natale was ready to volley in the follow-up from point-blank range.
Udinese very nearly got a third moments later, as Kwadwo Asamoah burst past Camilo Zuniga and pulled back from the by-line, as Pinzi came sliding in and just failed to make contact. Hamsik replaced Gargano, moving Dzemaili back into a deeper midfield role.
However, the Friulani went down to 10 men as Fabbrini was shown a second yellow card for treading on Hugo Campagnaro’s foot. It seemed a rather harsh decision, especially as it was in midfield, but he was late.
Napoli now poured forward and Coda tackled Eduardo Vargas in the penalty area, but Domizzi was then penalised for sticking up a hand to stop a cross reaching Paolo Cannavaro’s head. The referee was in a good position to spot the offence and awarded a penalty. Cavani stepped up and fired a totally central effort that Handanovic parried by simply not moving, so 10-man Udinese stayed 2-0 up. It was the fifth spot-kick the Partenopei have wasted this season.
Udinese Coach Francesco Guidolin was sent off for dissent. Cavani did get one back moments later with a wonderful free kick curled round the wall into the top corner, setting up a dramatic finale.
The final 10 minutes were a siege on Handanovic’s goal, as Gokhan Inler’s strike was charged down, but the move continued and Cavani burst down the left in acres of space and smashed a low angled drive in off the inside of the near post to beat the ‘keeper from close range.
Napoli now wanted to win and Zuniga stung Handanovic’s palms with a powerful rising strike from a tight angle.
Sent off: Fabbrini 60 (U)
Missed penalty: Cavani 74 (N)