Serie A – Napoli late show seals win over Palermo
A dramatic 95th minute goal from Christian Maggio ensured Napoli tightened their hold on fourth place in the Serie A table with a 1-0 victory over Palermo.
Palermo had the opportunity to leapfrog their opponents on the night but were punished for a defensive display and remain stuck in fifth on 23 points level with Inter, Sampdoria and Roma.
On a night when it seemed Palermo goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu would be the hero, producing save after save, Napoli deservedly clinched the points with the last kick of the game.
And he succeeded in doing so to the extent that a dour first half ensued that offered little by way of highlight.
Napoli certainly laid claim to the half’s brightest moments without ever really looking like scoring.
The opening minutes were approached with great caution by both sides and as a result both goalkeepers were made largely redundant.
Napoli eventually carved out the first clear cut chance of the game with Maggio’s goalbound left foot shot well blocked.
Just moments later and Maggio and Napoli went close for a second time with the midfielder finally introducing Salvatore Sirigu to the game who responded well to keep out a stinging right foot drive.
If a goal were to come it always looked like it would go the way of the home side and Michele Pazienza was not a million miles away after turning an Ezequiel Lavezzi cross towards goal but Palermo had bodies between ball and goal.
The travelling Palermo fans were forced to wait the best part of half an hour to see their side’s first opening as Fabrizio Miccoli had Morgan de Sanctis scrambling across his goal but he was able to watch as the ball drifted just wide of the far post.
The game’s brightest spark, Lavezzi almost broke the deadlock with a powerful shot towards the near corner but Sirigu proved to be more than equal to it.
On the brink of half time, in a moment that encapsulated the previous 45 minutes, Maggio broke free down the right, got to the byline and lifted his head to find not one team mate supporting in the penalty area.
Within minutes of the restart, Napoli held its collective breath as Lavezzi required extensive treatment after turning his ankle but they could afford a sigh of relief as the dynamic forward picked himself up and returned to the action.
Napoli continued in the ascendency and were left scratching their heads in disbelief as chance after chance went begging.
Cavani was increasingly involved in all Napoli’s best work as he drew an uncomfortable save from Sirigu who could only parry the ball into the path of the lurking Hamsik.
But with the goal gaping, Cesare Bovo popped up in the nick of time with a wonderful last ditch challenge to prevent a certain goal.
With the opening goal proving annoyingly elusive for the home side, there was yet more frustration as Lavezzi was denied at the far post by a wonderful smothering save.
Sirigu continued to perform heroics for his team and was their saving grace once more to deny Maggio after he had penetrated the Palermo backline.
Substitute Hassan Yebda and Hamsik were next to be denied by the inspired goalkeeper but with the match entering its 95th minute, Maggio appeared at the far post to convert Cavani’s cross with the final kick of the game.
Thomas Hyde / Eurosport