Kalidou Koulibaly and Jose Callejon eventually knocked down Hellas Verona resistance for Napoli to begin 2018 with another victory.
The Partenopei ended 2017 and the first half of the season as Winter Champions, but crashed out of the Coppa Italia Quarter-Finals with a 2-1 home defeat to Atalanta on Tuesday. Arkadiusz Milik and Faouzi Ghoulam were long-term absentees, but it was a homecoming for Verona Coach Fabio Pecchia, who represented Napoli both as a player and assistant manager to Rafa Benitez. Hellas came off two straight defeats after their surprise 3-0 hammering of Milan on December 17, but Alessio Cerci and Mattia Zaccagno were still sidelined.
The last time Verona won at the Stadio San Paolo was 2-1 in January 1983, followed by five draws and 14 defeats in all competition.
Lorenzo Insigne tested Nicolas early doors and nobody met Jose Callejon’s ball across the six-yard box, while Dries Mertens hit the post from point-blank range after the goalkeeper seemed blinded by the sunshine on an Insigne cross.
Mertens stung Nicolas’ gloves moments later, while Insigne’s trademark right-foot curler skimmed the upright. Insigne somehow failed to score when ballooning over from 12 yards undisturbed on Allan’s back-heel flick.
A well-worked team move came to nothing, as the pull-back found nobody ready to tap in.
Jorginho’s floated cross found Insigne for an acrobatic scissor-kick volley, beaten away at the near post by Nicolas, but he was offside anyway.
Insigne should’ve scored on 59 minutes, as he was unmarked on the end of a dinked Callejon cross, but the header was straight at the near post from close range. Mertens had the ball in the back of the net, but Callejon was already offside in the build-up.
Napoli did finally get through when Kalidou Koulibaly nodded in a Mario Rui corner, but Verona were furious and felt he had pushed Antonio Caracciolo, seeing Coach Pecchia sent off for dissent. He had his hand on the Hellas man’s back, but didn’t seem to put enough pressure on to stop the jump.
Napoli doubled their lead with a trademark goal, as Insigne’s cross to the back post found Callejon sliding in to volley low for his first goal since October 29.
Verona still had a chance to get back into it, but Pepe Reina was alert as Marcel Buchel sent substitute Giampaolo Pazzini clear.
Nicolas kept the scoreline at 2-0 with a great save on Jorginho’s curler in stoppages.