A Pepe Reina error allowed Udinese to peg back 10-man Napoli despite Jose Callejon’s strike.
Antonio Di Natale was on the bench against his hometown club at the Stadio Friuli, while the Partenopei were fairly comfortable in third place. Rafa Benitez completely revamped his side yet again, though some decisions were forced upon him by injuries to Gonzalo Higuain, Miguel Angel Britos, Christian Maggio and Rafael. Dries Mertens sat out a ban, so Duvan Zapata and Lorenzo Insigne started with Paulo Henrique in central defence.
Giampiero Pinzi returned for Udinese and managed to get himself booked in the first minute for a challenge on Faouzi Ghoulam. Napoli seemed uninspired and Valon Behrami, celebrating his birthday, blasted over from distance after Simone Scuffet parried an Insigne free kick.
Udinese almost took the lead on the half-hour mark, as a Gabriel Silva cross from the left found Emmanuel Badu’s header, which was remarkably wide of the near post from five yards.
Napoli broke the deadlock with a moment of magic from Jose Callejon, who allowed a long throw-in to bounce and smashed the half-volley past Scuffet from 12 yards.
Insigne’s right-foot finish on the counter whistled just wide and Hamsik blasted over the bar. Pepe Reina rushed out to smother at Muriel’s feet and Duvan Zapata wasted a promising counter-attack by hesitating, allowing Danilo to recover.
Udinese drew level after the restart, as Reina’s poor pass was intercepted by Pinzi, who set up Bruno Fernandes for the simple finish. It was a howler from the Liverpool-owned goalkeeper.
After that hiccup, Napoli seemed to be drained of confidence and Udinese poured forward in a bid to turn the game around. Goran Pandev went down under a Pinzi tug, but the referee was in a good position and waved play on.
Luis Muriel did have the ball in the net, but he was correctly flagged offside. Federico Fernandez received his second yellow card late on for tripping Gabriel Silva on the edge of the box.
Udinese tried to win it to the very end, but Bruno Fernandes saw his cross-shot sail just off target.
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Sent off: Fernandez 88 (N)