Serie A - Napoli roar back to beat Samp
Having dominated early on Napoli came from behind to defeat Sampdoria 2-1 at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris to record their first win of the Serie A campaign.
Napoli were scintillating from the off but lost impetus as the game wore on and it looked as though the Azzurri would rue a host of missed chances when Antonio Cassano scored from the penalty spot with just twelve minutes to go.
But a collective lapse of defensive concentration from the Blucerchiati five minutes later allowed Marek Hamsik to draw the sides level, before Edinson Cavani capped an impressive comeback with a close range finish three minutes later.
With both sides competing in Thursday night’s group stages of the Europa League, they were afforded the late Sunday evening kick-off to ward off the hangover that affects many a side following European exploits.
Conventional thinking would suggest that Napoli, having welcomed Utrecht to the Stadio San Paolo, had the advantage over a Sampdoria side that drew in Eindhoven against PSV and that proved to be the case as the men from Naples made the brighter start.
The Azzurri were disappointing during Thursday’s scoreless draw and had yet to register a win in the league but began the match in scintillating fashion – with Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi causing the back four of Sampdoria concern with some exceptional movement.
The only gripe Walter Mazzarri could have following a dominant first half display was with the profligate finishing on display from his forwards. They had the run of the Sampdoria back four – particularly in the opening twenty minutes – but failed to convert their superiority into a lead.
Lavezzi, having drawn a free-kick from Stefano Lucchini, fired straight at the wall before turning provider for Cavani, who was a hair's breadth away from giving the visitors a deserved lead.
Sampdoria had no response – bar the odd speculative shot from distance - and the malaise affecting their performance was surprising considering victory would have seen them move joint top of the table.
Despite losing some momentum as the half drew to a close, Andrea Dossena almost gave the visiting team the lead just before the break but, having pounced on some midfield negligence, the former Liverpool man saw his rasping drive pushed over the bar by Gianluca Curci in the home goal.
The second half was a more fragmented affair with neither side able to take control of a stretched midfield but as the game wore on the home side began to look most likely to finish the victors.
Stefano Guberti had two chances in quick succession. First he curled just wide following a corner before picking up the ball down the left, cutting inside and thudding an almost unstoppable effort against the crossbar.
Cassano, having tweaked an ankle in the warm up, was relatively quiet given his high standards but was the catalyst for the home side to take the lead.
The former Real Madrid man found space down the right and looked to find Nicola Pozzi in the middle but Paolo Cannavaro bundled the substitute over leaving the referee no option but to point to the spot.
Cassano remained composed to fire the Blucerchiati into the lead from twelve yards.
With just over ten minutes left to play, it looked as though Napoli were to taste defeat but Hamsik was found by Walter Gargano from a free-kick to restore parity before Cavani managed to divert a Lavezzi centre in at the near post to give the visitors all three points.