Serie A Week 18 - 6 Jan 2014 (11.30 UK)
Napoli 2 - 0 Sampdoria
Mertens 54, 62 (N)
Stadio San Paolo

Dries Mertens’ well-taken double saw Napoli break through a spirited Sampdoria performance on Monday afternoon.

Rafa Benitez’s men went into this lunchtime fixture looking to close the gap on second place Roma after their first defeat of the season to Juventus on Sunday evening. Dries Mertens was restored to a starting line-up missing the injured Pepe Reina, Marek Hamsik and Valon Behrami.

Sampdoria, meanwhile, were unbeaten since Sinisa Mihajlovic’s arrival as Coach and opted for an attacking line-up of Eder supported by three.

After opening exchanges in possession, the Vesuviani were the first to test their opponents, with Dries Mertens and Gonzalo Higuain both drawing smart, low stops from Junior da Costa.

Soon after, Nenad Krsticic thought he had put Samp 1-0 up after some neat interplay with teammates, only for play to be brought back correctly for an offside call.

Jose Callejon picked his way through the Samp markers to open up a chance midway through the half, but his effort was high to the right-hand corner.

At the other end, Krsticic then squandered a clear chance for Sampdoria, with Rafael proving equal to a tame effort.

Higuain then opened up a chance from the edge of the six-yard box, but his low effort flashed across the box and beyond the reach of Mertens at the far post.

Mertens had a slight appeal for a penalty turned down, after falling under the presence of Lorenzo De Silvestri’s shoulder barge in the box.

Eder saw a deflected effort saved by Rafael, who immediately launched a counter-attack that saw Napoli almost take the lead, only for Jose Callejon to pull Higuain’s cross over.

As the break approached, there were signs of Napoli’s growing frustration, as both Higuain and Mertens picked up yellow cards.

It was Mihajlovic’s side that began the second half with the opening half-chances from Eder and De Silvestri, but it was Napoli who took the lead, as Mertens volleyed first time a low effort to Da Costa’s left, from a drilled cross from Higuain.

Samp pushed back and Gabbiadini almost pulled things level within five minutes, when his excellent effort cannoned back off the crossbar. From a resulting corner, Samp then had a penalty appeal waved away.

Just after the hour mark, it was 2-0, as Mertens curled in his second of the afternoon from a 25-yard free-kick, which bounced just under Da Costa’s dive. Napoli grew in confidence and whilst Sampdoria continued to push forward, it was to little avail, with Lorenzo Insigne wasting a chance on a neat counter-attack to make it 3-0 on 70 minutes.

Substitute Gianluca Sansone almost pulled Samp back into it, when having just come on he cut inside and curled an effort beyond Rafael. However, the ball hit the far post, bounced along the line, hit the other post, to stay out and roll into the Napoli ‘keeper’s arms.

At the other end, Callejon could have made it 3-0, but his effort in the penalty box was drilled right at Da Costa, who parried it away. Ingisne late on saw a curling effort go just beyond the far post.

Napoli: Rafael; Maggio, Fernandez, Albiol, Reveillere (Armero 49); Inler, Dzemaili; Mertens, Callejon (Radosevic 84), Insigne; Higuain (Zapata 77)
Sampdoria: Da Costa; De Silvestri, Mustafi, Gastaldello, Regini (Costa 72); Obiang, Palombo; Gabbiadini, Krsticic (Pozzi 78), Soriano (Sansone 66); Eder
Ref: Banti