Dries Mertens ended his goal drought after 910 minutes of Serie A football to give Napoli a huge win away to their taboo team Atalanta.
The Partenopei had lost three of their previous four meetings with Atalanta, including a Coppa Italia quarter-final on January 2, so this was probably the toughest fixture of the season for the Serie A leaders. Faouzi Ghoulam and Arkadiusz Milik were still out of action, while Marek Hamsik was only on the bench after a bout of tonsillitis. Marten De Roon sat out a ban for the hosts and Andreas Cornelius was given the nod rather than Andrea Petagna.
Coach Gian Piero Gasperini was in the stands due to a touchline ban.
Atalanta had a series of early corners forced by their traditional pull-backs from the by-line, but Lorenzo Insigne’s curler was deflected past the far top corner.
It was a very even first half in Bergamo, with the Orobici’s pressing game shutting down passes and Dries Mertens struggling against the physicality of Andrea Masiello.
Masiello also showed another skill with an acrobatic over-head kick clearance to stop Jose Callejon going clear on goal.
Moments later, Lorenzo Insigne dribbled past one defender and was about to pull the trigger when Bryan Cristante made a last-ditch tackle.
Piotr Zielinski blasted over from the edge of the box, but Napoli created a stunning double chance on 53 minutes. First Etrit Berisha parried a Callejon header from point-blank range, then it looped up and just as Mertens was ready to nod in the rebound from a yard, Masiello cleared it off the line by hooking his leg up.
Atalanta also threatened, as Cornelius knocked down a Gomez cross and Josip Ilicic’s attempted tap-in was deflected over the bar.
Napoli finally found a way through and Mertens ended his 910-minute goal drought in real style. Callejon’s peach of a through ball sent Mertens running and he let it bounce before smashing on the half-volley under the bar from a tight angle.
Atalanta fought back, as Pepe Reina flew to fingertip a Bryan Cristante strike out from under the crossbar. Raul Albiol did just about enough to stop Papu Gomez making the most of an Elseid Hysaj error, then an audacious Mertens lob from midfield floated just wide.
It should’ve been 2-0 on 85 minutes when Mertens laid it on a plate for Hamsik, but the substitute ballooned over from a perfect position. Marko Rog did the same, this time scuffing his finish straight at Etrit Berisha when clear on goal.
Deep into stoppages, Hamsik thought he'd finished it with an angled drive into the far bottom corner, but it was ruled offside.
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