Napoli were twice trailing to desperate Udinese, but fought back to eventually win 4-2 and close the gap on Juventus to four points.
The Partenopei had slipped six points adrift of leaders Juventus and needed to at the very least keep that gap from spreading any wider ahead of this weekend’s Scudetto showdown in Turin. Kalidou Koulibaly was suspended and Dries Mertens rested in favour of Arkadiusz Milik. Udinese were in an historic crisis, losing nine rounds in a row for the first time and with reports Coach Massimo Oddo would be fired if he made it 10, yet he rested players ahead of the relegation showdown with Crotone, as well as missing Kevin Lasagna, Valon Behrami, Gabriele Angella and banned Emil Hallfredsson.
The Friulani’s last victory in Naples was April 2011, followed by one point from six visits.
Marek Hamsik forced a tricky one-handed save from distance, as did Lorenzo Insigne on a Piotr Zielinski assist, but midway through the first half, Udinese started to gain confidence.
Pepe Reina was called into action on a corner, as Samir’s header was deflected into the path of Antonin Barak.
Udinese were building the pressure and took a frankly deserved lead when Giuseppe Pezzella’s low ball was allowed to roll all the way to the back post with no attempt at an interception, finding Jakub Jankto to tap in. Napoli protested, but on VAR they showed only Jankto’s hand was offside – and that doesn’t count because it’s not a part of the body he can score with.
In first half stoppages, Napoli got back on level terms, as Insigne turned Bram Nuytinck with a marvellous first touch to fire in the right-foot angled drive.
It still wasn’t over, as before the half-time whistle Reina flew to fingertip a Jankto header over the bar.
After the restart, Insigne went on a rapid counter and set up Hamsik to blast wide, but Jankto threatened his second goal and Udinese did restore their advantage with Svante Ingelsson left relatively undisturbed for a volley from 12 yards on another Pezzella cross.
Maurizio Sarri went for desperate measures and threw on Mertens for Hamsik, albeit knowing if the Belgian was booked, he’d be suspended for the Juventus showdown.
It paid off, because Callejon tried to curl in directly from the corner flag and then Raul Albiol equalised with a towering header from a another Callejon corner that floated over everyone to slot under the bar.
The comeback was completed and Napoli took the lead for the first time, as Callejon’s angled drive was only palmed into the path of Arkadiusz Milik to tap in for 3-2.
The Partenopei took total control and another Callejon corner found Lorenzo Tonelli for a powerful header from eight yards and a two-goal cushion.
Udinese would not give in and on 84 minutes Stipe Perica was allowed a totally free header on Rodrigo De Paul’s cross, which bounced off the bar.
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