Rolando Bianchi’s brace held Napoli to a surprise 2-2 draw at the Stadio Dall’Ara despite Bologna going down to 10 men.
The Partenopei needed a victory at the Dall’Ara to keep up with the top two, but Bologna hoped to continue their unbeaten run under new Coach Davide Ballardini, having held Lazio to a 0-0 draw last week. Marek Hamsik returned to the starting XI after almost two months out, but Pepe Reina, Valon Behrami, Giandomenico Mesto and Juan Zuniga were sidelined.
Raul Albiol took one for the team, earning a yellow card for stopping Rolando Bianchi’s counter-attack with a foul, while Anthony Reveillere crucially charged down a Panagiotis Kone effort and Alessandro Diamanti blasted over the bar.
Bianchi got in front of Albiol to nod a Diamanti cross inches past the upright and it was only a rehearsal for the opening goal.
Ex-Manchester City and Lazio striker Bianchi again got away from Albiol for a glancing header on Diamanti’s assist from the left flank, sending it across Rafael into the far corner.
Cesare Natali risked an own goal to anticipate Gonzalo Higuain, then Dries Mertens wasted a golden opportunity to equalise, just failing to connect with Gokhan Inler’s assist at full stretch.
Jose Callejon did well to spring the offside trap on a chipped pass on the stroke of half-time, but his header looped over the bar.
Napoli continued to struggle, as Higuain’s attempted overhead kick only resulted in a fresh-air shot and heavy landing, so Marek Hamsik made his first Serie A appearance since November.
Gianluca Curci parried a Mertens free kick that dipped viciously and Gyorgy Garics desperately cleared to avoid a tap-in. Higuain thought he had equalised when diving on to a Callejon cross from six yards, but the header whistled wide.
Blerim Dzemaili flicked the ball past one defender and was lining up a shot when Panagiotis Kone rather clumsily bundled into the back of him for a penalty. Higuain stepped up and blasted his spot-kick under the bar to draw Napoli level.
It was a completely different game now and Napoli’s tails were up. Curci flew for a decisive one-handed save on the Mertens free kick that was curling into the near top corner.
A Napoli goal seemed inevitable and it finally arrived with 11 minutes to go. Lazaros Christodoulopoulos lost the ball in midfield and Callejon surged forward, beating Curci with a precise angled drive.
It got worse for Bologna, who went down to 10 men because Kone received a second yellow card for a shirt-tug on Higuain.
However, just as Napoli seemed to be cruising towards victory, they conceded an avoidable goal. A set play came to Bianchi totally unmarked at the back post and he had plenty of time to control and smash under the bar.
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Sent off: Kone 84 (B)