Federico Santander bagged a brace to give Bologna their seventh consecutive home win, despite a Napoli comeback in this 3-2 thriller.
Both sides could relax and celebrate the season finale, as Bologna had secured their Serie A safety despite a dismal start to the campaign, while the Partenopei were solidly second and fresh from humiliating Inter 4-1. Kalidou Koulibaly and Allan were suspended, with David Ospina, Vlad Chiriches and Alex Meret unavailable, but Simone Verdi faced his former club.
It is confirmed as an exciting fixture, as the last 11 Serie A meetings between these teams provided 50 goals, including a massive 7-1 Napoli win at the Dall’Ara in February 2017.
Verdi almost opened the scoring after eight minutes, as a wonderful high-speed one-touch passing move concluded with his finish inches wide from the D.
Lorenzo Insigne curled one of his trademark right-footers over the bar, but Faouzi Ghoulam had to clean up after three Bologna players failed to get on the end of a Mitchell Dijks low ball from six yards and Federico Santander’s header skimmed the crossbar.
Lyanco’s header from a corner stung the gloves of Orestis Karnezis, but Riccardo Orsolini had an extraordinary chance on 38 minutes. His header at the back stick from a Rodrigo Palacio cross flashed across the face of goal to shave a coat of paint off the far post.
Bologna were stepping up the pressure after a difficult start and took the lead when Palacio whipped a spectacular ball in from the left for the towering Santander header.
Napoli crumbled and 120 seconds later were 2-0 down. Blerim Dzemaili surged forward through the centre, Palacio’s run drew defenders wide and created the space for the Swiss international to drill into the far bottom corner.
Milik tested Lukasz Skorupski on a loose ball, the hit a scorcher inches wide from distance. Faouzi Ghoulam hit the back of the net with a ferocious strike from a tight angle into the far top corner, but the offside flag was up in a very tight decision. It was too tight, as VAR showed he was level with a defender when Fabian Ruiz put the ball over the top and the goal stood.
Moments later, Palacio had penalty appeals rejected as he ran into the box and went down under a clumsy Raul Albiol challenge.
Ghoulam sting Skorupski’s gloves from a tight angle and the pressure paid off, as Amin Younes sprung the offside trap on a Jose Callejon ball over the top and pulled back for substitute Dries Mertens to tap in from six yards.
It was a very special goal, as it put Mertens third on his own in the all-time Napoli charts on 109, behind only Diego Maradona’s 115 and Marek Hamsik’s 121. The Belgian also found the net for the fifth Serie A game in a row, a new personal best, while it was his 11th past favourite victims Bologna.
Zielinski thought he’d turned it around completely with a long-range missile that bounced off the far post with Skorupski beaten.
However, it was Bologna who restored their advantage when Matias Svanberg’s wayward effort turned into an accidental assist, Santander crouching down to redirect it with his head from close range.
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