Napoli recovered from a scare to beat Spezia 3-1, including a sensational Emanuele Giaccherini volley, to reach the Coppa Italia quarter-finals.
They will face either Fiorentina or Chievo in the next round on January 25.
Maurizio Sarri and Dries Mertens were suspended for the first Coppa Italia tie of the Partenopei’s season, but Rafael, Marko Rog and Emanuele Giaccherini had their first starts. Serie B side Spezia had a decent record in the tournament, knocking Roma out last year.
The minnows had a very aggressive start, but Piotr Zielinski broke the deadlock with Napoli’s first foray into the opposition box. The Poland international surged forward on a solo effort and curled the right-foot finish into the far bottom corner.
Manolo Gabbiadini’s long-range strike was saved and Lorenzo Insigne hit the upright under pressure from six yards on Giaccherini’s assist, while on the resulting corner Zielinski’s header was acrobatically tipped over the bar. Gabbiadini set up Insigne to curl just wide with his delightful flick and back-heel assist.
Giulio Maggiore’s snapshot was just wide and it was a warning, because Spezia equalised with Antonio Piccolo’s effort taking a deflection off Raul Albiol’s head to wrong-foot Rafael. Piccolo is a native Neapolitan and refused to celebrate.
Spezia caused some more scares, Rafael beating away an Alessandro Piu angled drive at the near post and a Piccolo curler charged down, while Giaccherini’s low drive was parried.
After the restart, Gabbiadini spun to scrape a coat of paint off the base of the far post and Giaccherini marked his first start with a stunning goal. The Italy international smashed a sensational right-foot volley into the far top corner from a very tight angle on Insigne’s chipped pass.
Just moments later Rog flicked the ball over one defender down the right, squirmed past another and laid the cross on a silver platter than Gabbiadini merely cushioned in from a yard off his chest.
Leonardo Pavoletti received his Napoli debut for the final 10 minutes, replacing Gabbiadini, and should’ve scored when he turned over from a couple of yards on Jose Callejon’s knock-down.
Napoli 3-1 Spezia
Zielinski 3 (N), Piccolo 35 (S), Giaccherini 55 (N), Gabbiadini 57 (N)
Napoli: Rafael; Maggio, Albiol, Maksimovic, Strinic (Hysaj 78); Zielinski, Diawara, Rog; Giaccherini, Gabbiadini (Pavoletti 80), Insigne (Callejon 58)
Spezia: Chichizola; N Valentini, Terzi, Ceccaroni (Pulzetti 66); De Col, Maggiore, Deiola, Migliore; Piccolo (Granoche 66); Baez (Mastinu 73), Piu
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