Serie A - Napoli back up to second

Sun, 20 Feb 21:38:00 2011

Napoli regained second place in the Serie A table after a 1-0 victory over Catania at the Stadio San Paolo lifted them back above Internazionale.

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Juan Zuniga's (pictured) first half goal was enough to seal all three points for Walter Mazzarri's men after the league's top scorer, Edinson Cavani, had missed from the penalty spot with the scores level at 0-0.

With their three closest rivals all winning over the weekend, it was imperative that Napoli matched them in order to remain just three points adrift of leaders AC Milan going into their second league meeting next week.

Without the suspended Ezequiel Lavezzi, Napoli lacked a certain fluency and a killer instinct in attack but did what was required of them to leave Catania teetering dangerously above the relegation places.

Having set up with an ultra-defensive formation and a mindset to match, it came as a huge surprise when it was Catania who were cruelly denied an unlikely opening goal by the woodwork.

Matias Schelotto craftily lost his marker at a corner kick before crashing a powerful header against the near post with Napoli goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis well beaten.

With their framework still rattling, Napoli were gifted the perfect opportunity to break the deadlock from the penalty spot after Jose Sosa was hauled down in the penalty area by Giovanni Marchese.

Catania must have thought that they were as good as a goal down when Serie A's top scorer Cavani stepped up to take the spot kick, but to the great surprise of all in attendance at the San Paolo, the Uruguayan dragged his shot against the outside of the post.

But Catania's luck was not to last as the home side were soon rewarded for their early dominance.

Cavani turning provider, to atone for his earlier misdemeanour from 12 yards, with his deflected shot falling conveniently into the path of Zuniga who had the freedom of Naples to take a touch and compose himself before slotting the ball past Mariano Andujar for his first Napoli goal.

As the half time break drifted into sight, a most scrappy exchange ensued involving injuries, bookings and much watch pointing from the two animated managers on the sideline.

A strong block tackle between Christian Maggio and Raphael Martinho left the latter requiring a stretcher to make his premature exit.

And it was handbags at dawn after Schelotto accidentally drove his knee into the side of the fallen Salvatore Aronica's head and somehow it was Marek Hamsik who emerged as the guilty party in it all and was the only player to have his name taken by the referee.

Upon the resumption of play it was Napoli who flew out of the blocks and it took all of 30 seconds before Andujar was forced to make a diving save to deny Marek Hamsik who shot fiercely from distance.

The initial moments of the second half proved to be a continuation of the first with the home side monopolising possession while Catania looked incapable of pushing the boat out in attack.

Their greatest chance of salvaging anything from the game looked to come from a series of set pieces in threatening positions but on each occasion the Napoli defence emerged triumphant.

With Napoli unable to increase their advantage, the visitors began to sense that there was a point in this game for them after all but even with the introduction of top scorer Maxi Lopez from the bench, De Sanctis' goal remained impenetrable.

Thomas Hyde / Eurosport

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