Sampdoria fought back from 2-0 down, but Napoli eventually ran out 4-2 winners at Marassi with Diego Demme and Dries Mertens.
The Partenopei’s confidence was growing after wins over Lazio and Juventus between Coppa Italia and Serie A, but Gennaro Gattuso had selection issues. Allan, Dries Mertens, Kalidou Koulibaly and Nikola Maksimovic were only fit for the bench, while Fabian Ruiz and Diego Demme had flu. Bartosz Bereszynski was suspended for the hosts, with Fabio Depaoli, Ronaldo Vieira and Alex Ferrari not fully fit.
It took under three minutes to break the deadlock, with practically non-stop Napoli possession throughout. The long passing move was completed by an Arkadiusz Milik header on Piotr Zielinski’s cross from the left, although Omar Colley slipped and made it even easier for him.
Milik and Fabio Quagliarella had efforts smothered, but Napoli doubled their lead when Giovanni Di Lorenzo glanced his head to a Mario Rui corner and Eljif Elmas held off Karol Linetty to volley in at the far post. The Macedonian midfielder burst into tears after scoring his first Serie A goal.
Linetty nearly got one back, his deflected curler whistling just wide, but it was Quagliarella who found the net with a sensational right-foot volley from the edge of the area into the far bottom corner. Alex Meret got his fingertips to it, but the power and spin was just too much.
Milik’s twisting header skimmed the far post, but Sampdoria went on a rapid counter-attack with Gabbiadini slipping on the Jakub Jankto cross and Gaston Ramirez turning the rebound on to the upright from point-blank range.
Audero got his gloves to a towering Milik header at the back post and after the restart Quagliarella nodded an Augello cross just past the far stick.
Sampdoria had the ball in the net for 2-2 on 56 minutes when Gabbiadini sparked a counter, then knocked it down for a Ramirez overhead kick. However, after viewing it on the VAR on-field review, the referee decided Gabbiadini had initially won the ball using his arm and so the goal was disallowed. This was a debatable situation, as the arm was arguably in a natural position as he jumped.
Moments later, Napoli also had a goal disallowed. Insigne’s left-foot strike bounced off the base of the upright and Zielinski was offside when turning in the rebound.
VAR was called into action again when Kostas Manolas clipped Quagliarella’s heel in the box and Sampdoria were awarded a penalty. The captain was still down hurt, so Gabbiadini drilled in the spot-kick, despite Meret getting his fingertips to it at the near bottom corner.
Mertens made his comeback and Matteo Politano got his debut in the Napoli jersey, but Jankto and Quagliarella limped off injured.
It still wasn’t over, as Samp lost the ball cheaply in midfield, Mario Rui and Insigne combined and when the captain’s shot was charged down, Demme turned in the rebound from 13 yards.
Federico Bonazzoli couldn’t quite get the final touch to a Gabbiadini free kick, but Napoli added a fourth goal with practically the last kick of the game.
Audero had rushed off his line for a header to clear from Milik, but it landed at the feet of Mertens, who did not hesitate to sweep into an empty net from 30 metres out.
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