Napoli have mathematically secured second place with a dramatic comeback to beat Cagliari, including Lorenzo Insigne’s stoppage-time penalty.
Neither side had any pressure, as the Partenopei were already sure of a Champions League spot and the Sardinians were mathematically safe from relegation. Raul Albiol had his first start since January, having recovered from a knee injury, but Nikola Maksimovic, Vlad Chiriches and Amadou Diawara were out of action.
Insigne ran at Cagliari defenders before his finish was blocked off, then Amin Younes saw his cross-shot flash inches past both the far post and Kalidou Koulibaly sliding in.
Dries Mertens saw his spectacular cross-shot skim the far top corner from an improbable angle, then Filippo Romagna did just enough to put Insigne off meeting the Belgian’s assist.
Napoli dominated possession and Cagliari defended very deep, as Mertens blasted over and Simone Verdi’s volley was straight at Alessio Cragno.
The goalkeeper’s first genuine save was on 59 minutes, palming a Mertens shot round the base of the near post, as he had squirmed it through two defenders.
However, it was Cagliari who took the lead with a rare foray forward. Nicolò Barella deserves much of the credit for his inspired back-heel flick, which committed two defenders and left Leonardo Pavoletti free to drill right-footed into the far bottom corner.
Moments later, Napoli had the ball in the net too, but Mertens was a long way offside as he caught the rebound from a parried long-range Piotr Zielinski strike.
Suddenly, the hosts had woken up, as Cragno flew to fingertip a Zielinski cross-shot over the bar, then Arkadiusz Milik’s glancing header from the resulting corner also tested the goalkeeper.
Milik turned wide on a marvellous Mertens assist, then the pair combined with a fantastic double give-and-go, but again the Pole’s finishing was off target.
Mertens thought he’d surely scored at the 80th minute with a rare header that was flying into the far top corner, but Cragno somehow managed to claw it on to the inside of the far post and it bounced back out without crossing the line.
Simone Padoin stung Meret’s gloves, but the Cagliari defence allowed Mertens another header and this time he glanced it downwards, giving Cragno no chance. It was his 107th competitive goal in a Napoli jersey, allowing him to catch Attila Sallustro in third place of the club record books, not to mention his 82nd in Serie A, leaving behind Diego Maradona’s 81.
It still wasn’t over, because deep into stoppages Fabrizio Cacciatore charged down a Ghoulam cross with his arm right on the outside edge of the area. After several minutes, the VAR booth contacted Chiffi to tell him it was on the line – and therefore part of the penalty area – and he viewed it again to award a spot-kick.
Insigne stepped up and put the criticism and jeers of the past few weeks behind him by converting with a delicate right-foot finish. He celebrated by pulling off his jersey and showing it to the crowd.
Ionita and Coach Rolando Maran were sent off for dissent during the melee.
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Sent off: Ionita 96 (C)