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18 April 2024

Napoli dominate Catania, pull level with Juve


Goals from Marek Hamsik and Paolo Cannavaro helped Napoli secure a 2-0 win over outclassed Catania and move level on points with Juventus at the top of Italy's Serie A on Saturday.

Napoli had given Juve a reminder of their title ambitions last week when Edinson Cavani snatched a precious 2-1 win at Parma as Juve stuttered at home to Genoa.

Cavani, who tops the league scoring charts with 18 goals, came close on several occasions at a rain and wind-hit San Paolo stadium.

But the goalscoring duties ultimately fell to silky Slovakian Hamsik, with Cannavaro finding himself in the right place at the right time for Napoli's second just before the break.

"It wasn't an easy match against Catania, but we attacked from the start to avoid being drawn into making mistakes," said Hamsik, who insists Napoli are not thinking too much about the leaders.

"We're not thinking about Juventus, we just have to keep on playing as well as we did tonight."

Napoli remain second but Walter Mazzarri's side are now level on points (49) with Juve, who travel to Chievo on Sunday hoping to consign a controversial 1-1 draw at home to Genoa to distant memory.

Juve coach Antonoio Conte, striker Mirko Vucinic and defenders Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini are all suspended for the Verona trip after picking up bans for verbally abusing the referee when he refused to award a late penalty.

Napoli showed their intent from the start, forward Goran Pandev coming close to giving the hosts a lead inside the opening minute following good work on the right, only for his looping shot to be off target.

The hosts were also unlucky not to win a penalty when Cannavaro's overhead kick ricocheted off the arm of a Catania player on the quarter-hour.

Moments later Cavani launched a promising offensive, capped with a deft delivery for Pandev on the right only for the Macedonian's weak cross to be collected by Mariano Andujar.

Napoli were firmly in control and broke the deadlock in clinical fashion when Hamsik slotted home at the back post after Juan Zuniga had lashed over an angled cross, which took a slight deflection as the Slovakian teed up.

A Catania counter on 35 minutes left Pablo Barrientos with time and space on the right but his cross was sent out for a corner, after which the ball appeared to come off the hand of Zuniga as Napoli cleared.

An immediate Napoli break then almost gave the hosts their second.

A foul on Blerim Dzemaili gave Napoli a free-kick on the edge of the area and Cavani's effort slammed off the crossbar with Andujar beaten.

The home side were nearly caught out when Barrientos snuck in behind the defence to meet a well-timed cross from the left but his effort went wide.

Napoli then made Catania pay for a poor clearance when Zuniga headed the ball back into play to set up an alert Hamsik, whose low pass was slotted home by Cannavaro from close range.

There were few chances in the second half, although three minutes after the restart Catania thought they had reduced the arrears when Argentine striker Gonzalo Bergessio headed past Morgan De Sanctis.

After protests from Napoli, his goal was chalked off for his earlier manhandling of Zuniga.

Catania again came close in the 65th minute when Francesco Lodi forced a smart diving save from De Sanctis after a superbly-curled set-piece.

The visitors, however, never looked like scoring and Napoli came close to a third when Cavani pounced on a neat backheel from second half substitute Lorenzo Insigne and turned inside only to see his effort blocked in traffic.

Earlier, Torino were held to a scoreless draw at home by Sampdoria - a week after the visitors' 6-0 home rout of Pescara.