Adam Ounas celebrated his first Serie A goal and Lorenzo Insigne curled a stunner into the top corner as Napoli saw off Sassuolo.
Carlo Ancelotti followed up the midweek Champions League victory over Liverpool by rotating the squad again, giving rare starts to Simone Verdi, Marko Rog, Adam Ounas and Kevin Malcuit, while Mario Rui was suspended. The Neroverdi surprisingly rested Domenico Berardi, with Federico Peluso and Alfred Duncan sidelined, but were only two points behind Napoli going into this weekend.
It was an extraordinary start, as after Piotr Zielinski tested Andrea Consigli at the near post, Manuel Locatelli’s awful back-pass was intercepted by Ounas. He kept his cool to flick it up over Magnani and smash the half-volley into the roof of the net. It was his first Serie A goal on his first start in the competition.
Consigli needed a flying save on the Mertens cross-shot with the outside of the boot, then the Belgian drilled wide from a tight angle after a smart counter-attack team move and also tested Consigli at the near post from Verdi’s assist.
Mertens tried to lob Consigli from the centre-circle and Kevin-Prince Boateng swung a volley wide, but Zielinski wasted a huge chance when sent clear by Verdi, firing straight at the desperately on-rushing goalkeeper.
Elseid Hysaj had penalty appeals when Marlon put an arm across his chest as he tried to run past, but penalty appeals were waved away.
Sassuolo survived the early siege and started to create some dangers of their own, as David Ospina beat away a Filip Djuricic snapshot with real difficulty.
Roberto De Zerbi, a former Napoli striker, introduced Domenico Berardi and Mehdi Bourabia for the second half.
Ounas nearly got his second, hitting the side-netting from a Malcuit assist, then substitute Lorenzo Insigne controlled a ball over the top and attempted an audacious lob from a tricky angle, but Consigli flew to fingertip it round the far post.
It remained only 1-0 and Sassuolo went to take advantage on the counter. Berardi nutmegged Allan and sent Djuricic down the left, his angled drive beaten away at the near post by David Ospina’s outstretched foot.
Berardi cut inside and unleashed a low left-foot curler, which Ospina had to palm round the base of the far post.
Just as Napoli were living dangerously, Insigne pulled a rabbit out of the hat with his trademark right-foot curler into the far top corner. It moved as if remote-controlled from 20 metres out on an Elseid Hysaj assist.
Sassuolo didn’t give in and with five minutes left Ospina needed a great reaction save with his leg to deny Khouma Babacar from close range.
However, Rogerio was rather harshly shown a straight red for his very high but not powerful challenge on Jose Callejon.
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Sent off: Rogerio 87 (S)