Napoli had a few scares against plucky 10-man Sampdoria, but stay top of the table with a 4-2 victory at Marassi.
The Partenopei were top of the table, but fresh from a Coppa Italia quarter-final exit to Inter, complete with controversy over Maurizio Sarri’s touchline row with Roberto Mancini. Roberto Soriano was suspended for Sampdoria, who looked to Antonio Cassano for inspiration.
The previous five meetings between these sides, home and away, had provided 21 goals. Napoli were unbeaten at Marassi since May 2010, notching up three wins and a draw.
Gonzalo Higuain had 20 goals in 20 Serie A games, but ballooned over from 12 yards when the ball bobbled on the notoriously poor Marassi turf.
Pipita wasn’t going to miss two chances like that and moments later pounced on a poor Edgar Barreto back-pass to punish Emiliano Viviano one-on-one. It was the Argentine’s 21st goal in 21 Serie A games this season.
Barreto had a dismal game and brought down Raul Albiol as the defender was trying to control on a corner. Lorenzo Insigne surprisingly took the spot-kick duties rather than Higuain and converted at the near post.
Ervin Zukanovic charged down another Higuain counter and Insigne narrowed the angle too much on a Jose Callejon through ball, while Pepe Reina was alert on a triple-deflection from Joaquin Correa’s attempt.
Samp emerged from their shells after that nightmare start and began to pile pressure on, which paid off with a goal on the stroke of half-time. Carlos Carbonero won back possession in midfielder and surged down the right, his ball across was let through by an Eder dummy for Correa to finish off from 12 yards.
Emiliano Viviano bravely sprinted outside the box for a brave tackle on Higuain, sent clear by Kalidou Koulibaly, but Samp went down to 10 men for Mattia Cassani’s foolish second bookable offence on Insigne.
Napoli took full advantage, as within 60 seconds Marek Hamsik had gone on a slalom through two defenders and at full stretch anticipated Zukanovic to prod home from eight yards.
Higuain drilled just over, but 10-man Samp got back into it again with Eder’s glancing header at the near post from a corner, flashing it across Reina.
Ivan Strinic came off the bench to force a tough Viviano save with his angled drive, but Dries Mertens did even better by restoring the two-goal advantage with a slalom not dissimilar to Hamsik’s goal, putting Carbonero on the floor.
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Sent off: Cassani 59 (S)