Napoli fought back to eliminate Cesena from the Coppa Italia 2-1 with Goran Pandev’s controversial ‘phantom’ goal on Edu Vargas’ debut.
Walter Mazzarri rotated his squad to a degree, but gave January signing Vargas his first appearance alongside Marek Hamsik and Edinson Cavani. Cesena complained this game was in-between two crunch relegation dogfights, so fielded a second-string side.
Hamsik just failed to get on the end of Andrea Dossena’s pass into the six-yard box, while Antonio Rosati smothered an Erjon Bogdani snapshot.
The Naples crowd was stunned into silence on 20 minutes when Stefan Adrian Popescu took advantage of a defensive error to put Cesena in front with his strike from the edge of the box. The 18-year-old goalscorer was forced off with a muscular injury soon after.
It was almost 2-0 with Vincenzo Rennella going close to tapping in Bogdani’s cross, but Napoli wasted a great chance as Cavani and Vargas both went for the same Dossena assist and got in each others’ way.
The Partenopei repeatedly put crosses into the box, but couldn’t seem to get a single dangerous shot on target. Goran Pandev replaced the disappointing Vargas and the home side poured forward from the start of the second half.
Hamsik hit the side-netting, Pandev’s volley skimmed the woodwork and Juan Zuniga fired straight at the goalkeeper, but Cavani incredibly ballooned over the bar from eight yards when Dossena had put the assist on a plate for him.
Cavani also failed to reach another Dossena cross, but eventually made up for those errors by drawing Napoli level. Pandev’s free kick was only parried into the Uruguayan hitman’s path for the easy tap-in.
It was all the Azzurri now, as Marco Rossi deflected a Pandev attempt out for a corner while Cesena defended in numbers.
Just as the tie was heading towards extra time, there was a moment of controversy. Pandev’s free kick was palmed off the line by goalkeeper Ravaglia, but the linesman flagged that the ball had already crossed over. Even with the slow motion replays it was difficult to tell whether the entire sphere had gone in.
Napoli will go on to face Inter or Genoa in the quarter-finals.
Napoli 2-1 Cesena
Scorers: Popescu 20 (C), Cavani 65 (N), Pandev 86 (N)
Napoli: Rosati; Fernandez, Cannavaro, Britos (Donadel 75); Zuniga, Inler (Maggio 58), Dzemaili, Dossena; Hamsik, Vargas (Pandev 46); Cavani
Cesena: Ravaglia; Vesi, Benalouane, Rossi, Lauro; T Arrigoni (Martinez 75), Colucci (Candreva 60), Popescu (Parolo 29); Rennella, Bogdani, Ghezzal