Napoli kept the Scudetto race alive with an incredible comeback, from 0-1 at the 89th minute to beat Chievo 2-1 after Dries Mertens’ penalty was saved.
The Partenopei needed a victory to stay within four points of leaders Juventus, who won 4-2 at Benevento yesterday, but brought in Lorenzo Tonelli and Amadou Diawara to replace suspended Raul Albiol and Jorginho. The Flying Donkeys were battling against the threat of relegation and had familiar faces in attack, as Emanuele Giaccherini and Roberto Inglese were both on loan from Napoli.
Chievo have not beaten Napoli since a 1-0 result here in September 2014, followed by five losses and the goalless stalemate at the Bentegodi back in November.
Jose Callejon should’ve scored early on, but ballooned over the bar from a couple of yards as he got on the end of a Lorenzo Insigne cross to the back post.
Insigne’s first touch allowed him to skip past Fabio Depaoli and force a corner, as the game went the way everyone expected – Chievo defending in their own final third, Napoli dominating possession.
Marek Hamsik’s curler was charged down by Nenad Tomovic after an Insigne back-heel flick, while the captain and Insigne both struck the side-netting from a tight angles.
Tomovic was decisive again with a sliding tackle as Dries Mertens sprinted into the box, then the Belgian tested Stefano Sorrentino from close range.
Insigne wasted a great chance at the dawn of the second half, his weak finish on an Elseid Hysaj cross from the right easily smothered one-on-one by Sorrentino.
Mertens went down as he ran into the penalty area and felt Depaoli’s hand on his shoulder. ‘Ciro’ stepped up to take the spot-kick himself, but specialist Sorrentino got the right angle and beat it away to keep Chievo on level terms. It was the veteran’s third save out of the last four penalties he has faced in Serie A.
Sorrentino again denied Mertens, reaching back to claw a Mertens looping header out from under the bar on a Mario Rui corner.
Chievo gained in confidence and Inglese saw his header acrobatically cleared off the line, but play had already been halted for an offside position.
Maurizio Sarri unleashed Arkadiusz Milik for Hamsik, but Mario Rui was booked and will be suspended against Milan next week.
Milik ran on to an Insigne through ball and held off his marker, but Sorrentino rushed off the line and stuck up one big glove to stop the chip entering an empty net.
Instead, Chievo scored with effectively their first chance of the game on 73 minutes. It was a catalogue of errors, as first Kalidou Koulibaly was caught in possession by former teammate Giaccherini, then substitute Stepinski cut back past a timid attempt at a challenge and drilled low past Pepe Reina.
The Partenopei tried to fight back, but bad luck continued to plague them as Lorenzo Tonelli’s header from a corner smacked against the crossbar moments later.
Sorrentino flew to beat away a trademark Insigne right-foot curler, while Mertens and Piotr Zielinski blasted just off target, then Insigne laid off a cross for Milik, but Bani performed a desperate clearance from four yards.
Napoli finally got the ball in the back of the net in the final minute of normal play, as Insigne floated a perfect assist over the top and Milik’s looping header from a tight angle slipped under the bar.
The Partenopei poured forward throughout four minutes of stoppages and incredibly turned it all around with unexpected hero Diawara. His right-foot curler from 12 yards looped around Sorrentino into the far top corner, not dissimilar to Fabio Grosso’s World Cup semi-final goal against Germany in extra time. Quite a way to score his debut Serie A goal.
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Saved penalty: Mertens 51 (N)