Napoli sent a message to Chelsea with their 6-3 demolition of Cagliari and a sixth straight win, although Joaquin Larrivey showed what can happen when they get complacent.
The Partenopei rested Edinson Cavani and Christian Maggio ahead of their Champions League clash with Chelsea, while Blerim Dzemaili was suspended, Marco Donadel, Miguel Angel Britos and Gianluca Grava injured. Cagliari missed Mauricio Pinilla, El Kabir, Rui Sampaio and Sebastian Eriksson, while Andrea Cossu was not fit to start.
Napoli broke through with their first real chance of the match. Marek Hamsik gathered in midfield, dribbled past Daniele Conti and picked his spot, sending an angled daisy-cutter into the far bottom corner of the net.
At the other end, Joaquin Larrivey’s glancing free header from a corner was off target. Larrivey also went down under a Paolo Cannavaro challenge, but replays show barely any contact at all.
The Partenopei doubled their advantage when a Lavezzi free kick found Cannavaro for a powerful header into the ground from six yards that bounced in off the underside of the crossbar. However, replays suggest the captain might’ve been marginally offside.
Victor Ibarbo set up two opportunities for Conti, who had the first saved and fired the second over.
Napoli got their third with an own goal. Ezequiel Lavezzi burst down the right to the by-line and his taut ball across the six-yard box found Davide Astori to accidentally poke past his own goalkeeper.
To make matters worse, Radja Nainggolan went off with a thigh problem. However, Cagliari did pull one back when Conti’s free kick found Larrivey for a soaring header from eight yards, getting in front of his marker.
Cagliari nearly made it 3-2 before half-time, as Victor Ibarbo surged forward and rolled across for Thiago Ribeiro’s shot that Morgan De Sanctis just about turned round the base of the near post.
Napoli seemed distracted and perhaps thought the job was already done, so Hugo Campagnaro needed a crucial intervention to clear the danger.
Straight after the restart Pandev brilliantly hooked a high ball and spun round for his angled drive to scrape the far upright. Lavezzi’s free kick also whistled just wide.
Pocho went on a classic counter-attack and flew into the area to be brought down by Michele Canini for a penalty. Cavani was on the bench, so Lavezzi got back on his feet for a rare spot-kick, which he coolly converted by sending Michael Agazzi the wrong way. It was his fifth consecutive match on target. He was given a standing ovation when rested soon after.
Cavani came off the bench for the last half-hour and immediately flashed a right-foot angled drive inches past the far stick.
Cavani turned provider, as he drew out three defenders to the left side of the box only to roll across with his back to goal for the on-rushing Walter Gargano to smash home.
Agazzi fumbled a Cavani shot moments later, but Cagliari got a second consolation goal when Ibarbo dribbled along the by-line between defenders to chip up a cross for Larrivey’s header off the inside of the post.
The sixth goal for a sixth consecutive victory came from a De Sanctis goal kick, which was flicked on by Pandev for Christian Maggio to place the angled drive across Agazzi.
It still wasn’t over, as Larrivey completed his hat-trick with the last kick of the game! Ibarbo was again responsible, chipping up a cross for his free header.
See the latest Serie A predictions and betting tips with Eurotips.co.uk