Napoli ended their run of three straight defeats by beating Novara 2-0, but the game was delayed for 18 minutes by the referee’s injury.
The Partenopei wanted to break their five-match winless streak, including three consecutive defeats, which had lasted since the Champions League elimination to Chelsea in mid-March. Christian Maggio was back in the side, though Ezequiel Lavezzi, Marco Donadel and the suspended Goran Pandev were out. Despite the lack of fit strikers, Edu Vargas was still on the bench, so Marek Hamsik moved up as sole support for Edinson Cavani.
Novara had one foot in Serie B and missed Jeda, Marco Rigoni, Da Silva, Carlalberto Ludi, Francesco Marianini, Samir Ujkani and the suspended Santiago Garcia, but fielded former Napoli striker Giuseppe Mascara.
Bizarrely, play was halted after only 45 seconds when referee Daniele Doveri required treatment for a shoulder injury. He even had to lie down on the bench at the touchline to receive physiotherapy for around 10 minutes. He appeared to pick up the injury when signalling for a free kick and threw his right shoulder a little too vehemently. Doveri tore a muscle in his shoulder and went into the locker rooms to receive strapping and a pain-killing injection, which seemed to do the trick.
After 18 minutes, the game resumed at the San Paolo with Doveri officiating. Gokhan Inler’s pass over the top was volleyed back across the face of goal by Maggio, but Cavani could only hit the side-netting under pressure from Centurioni.
Morgan De Sanctis rather clumsily tried to stop Filippo Porcari running into the box and did just about enough to get the ball away from him despite fumbling.
Inler blasted off target from distance, but Napoli had another fantastic scoring opportunity. Maggio’s bullet header from a corner had beaten Alberto Fontana, but was cleared off the line by Giuseppe Gemiti. The defender did not seem to know much about it, as the header was straight at him.
Novara’s goalkeeper gifted the opener to Napoli with a shockingly bad clearance. Fontana completely scuffed his kick and allowed Blerim Dzemaili to roll across for Cavani to deposit into an empty net.
Within seconds of play resuming, Paolo Cannavaro had to scramble clear from former teammate Mascara. Fontana and the Novara defence were having a bad night, but the goalkeeper did fly to slap away a looping Maggio header, although play was halted for an offside position.
The second goal arrived soon after. Walter Gargano robbed Mascara in midfield to immediately set up Cavani. The cross-shot was beaten away by Fontana, only into the path of Cannavaro to smash the finish under the bar from six yards.
After the restart Cavani cleared from a dangerous Centurioni header on a corner, while Fontana smothered a Camilo Zuniga daisy-cutter.
Fontana stuck out a foot to beat away Dzemaili’s screamer from the edge of the box, as he had thrown himself towards the near stick when the shot turned out to be more central.
Napoli were dominating, but wasteful in attack, and Cavani fired on to the side-netting. Dzemaili also missed after dribbling through the Novara back line.
The visitors did manage to create an opportunity on 73 minutes with Andrea Caracciolo, but Morgan De Sanctis rushed off his line to smother.
Vargas was given a run-out for the final 15 minutes. Gargano pulled back from the byline for Cavani to blast off target. Moments later Cavani gathered down the left and stung Fontana’s palms with a rising angled drive under the bar. From that corner, Fontana was at full stretch to palm away a low Hamsik cross-shot from close range.
Andrea Lisuzzo charged down a Dzemaili strike and a Cavani looping header was over the bar. Massimiliano Ammendola was given his Serie A debut in stoppages. Hugo Campagnaro went a little too high for a header and hit his nose on the back of a Novara defender's skull.
Play stopped for 18 minutes at the 1st for the referee to receive treatment