Serie A Week 6 - 29 Sep 2019 (11.30 UK)
Napoli 2 - 1
Mertens 13 (N), Manolas 45 (N), Balotelli 67 (B)
Stadio San Paolo

Dries Mertens and Kostas Manolas just about proved enough for Napoli to scrape a 2-1 win over Brescia, despite Mario Balotelli’s goal.

The Partenopei had to get back on track after a midweek shock 1-0 home defeat to Cagliari and prepare for the Champions League with Genk, so rested Lorenzo Insigne and Hirving Lozano, moving Piotr Zielinski wide left, while Kalidou Koulibaly started his two-match ban for insulting the referee. Mario Balotelli’s daughter Pia lives with her Neapolitan mother in the city, so he walked out with her in his arms as one of the mascots.

The hosts broke through early with a trademark Napoli goal. Fabian Ruiz floated a magnificent ball to the back post, where Jose Callejon sliding in managed to knock it back for Mertens to fire home from six yards. It was his 114th goal in a Napoli jersey, just one shy of Diego Armando Maradona’s total.

Their tails were up, as Llorente completed a give-and-go with Allan in the box to force a fingertip save from Jens Joronen, then on 19 minutes Kostas Manolas had the ball in the net, but it was disallowed after a VAR review for using his arm to get it under control.

Napoli were absolutely dominant with a series of crosses and chances, but it was still only 1-0 and the temperature so warm that they needed a cooling break.

Brescia emerged from the siege and Manolas needed a desperate interception to stop Allan’s back-pass sending Alfredo Donnarumma clear.

Mertens volleyed on to the side-netting after another Llorente header down, then Joronen bravely palmed a dangerous cut-back off the Belgian’s feet.

Just as Brescia seemed to be getting back into the game, Napoli doubled their lead in first half stoppages. Mertens saw his corner knocked on by Faouzi Ghoulam and Mertens just had to swerve his head from six yards and this time it counted.

Llorente had penalty appeals within seconds of the restart for a coming together with Chancellor, but the VAR booth waved play on.

Balotelli then tested David Ospina with a long-range free kick and Sandro Tonali hit the back of the net with a rocket from 20 metres that would’ve been his debut Serie A goal. However, it was disallowed on VAR review after Bisoli was judged to have fouled Nikola Maksimovic in the build-up.

Tonali’s free kick was knocked on just beyond Balotelli at the back post, while Mertens only hit the side-netting when sent clear by Allan.

Brescia did get one back with Balotelli’s first goal in a Rondinelle jersey. He rose above the crowd to get his head to the Tonali corner at the Stadio San Paolo.

To make matters worse, Maksimovic was stretchered off with a suspected hamstring strain, so Elseid Hysaj came on and Giovanni Di Lorenzo became a makeshift centre-back under siege from the Brescia waves of attacks.

Balotelli’s volley almost fell kindly for Bisoli on a Tonali free kick and Alessandro Matri’s head only skimmed a dangerous cross, as Napoli clung on for dear life through seven minutes of tense stoppages.

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Napoli: Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Manolas (Luperto 65), Maksimovic (Hysaj 76), Ghoulam; Callejon, Allan, Fabian, Zielinski; Mertens, Llorente (Elmas 73)
: Joronen; Sabelli, Cistana, Chancellor, Martella (Mateju 69); Bisoli, Tonali, Dessena (Romulo 72); Spalek (Matri 85); Balotelli, A Donnarumma
Ref: Manganiello