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25 January 2014
• Stadio San Paolo, Napoli
Referee: M. Irrati
• Attendance: 39157
G. Sardo 18'
A dramatic finish to proceedings at the San Paolo as Raul Albiol's late strike snatches a point for Napoli, but they will consider this a chance blown to put pressure on the top two before their games tomorrow. For Chievo, they'll be gutted not to have held on for the win, but that could be a crucial point come May. Intriguing stuff from Serie A - thanks for joining me!
90' + 3'
And that's that! The referee brings it to a close. Chievo hold on for a valuable point!
90' + 2'
Half a shout for handball against Drame but that was never a penalty - he was far too close to Insigne and his arm was against his body.
Napoli piling on the pressure to find a winner now - everyone is in Chievo's half...
Assist Dries Mertens
Goal Raúl Albiol
GOOOAAAAAALLLLLL! FINALLY, FINALLY A BREAKTHROUGH! Mertens' cross bounces awkwardly and it's Raul Albiol who fires a half-volley low past Puggioni. Napoli are level!
Hetemaj gives it away and Napoli bomb forward. Hamsik's cross is too deep for Higuain but Insigne reaches it and rifles a shot just over the bar.
A rare foray into Napoli's half ends in a Britos interception, and Inler tries to start another attack.
Chievo have also moved to improve their chances of keeping the ball further up the field - Paloschi has been replaced by Estigarribia, who wins a free kick from Higuain near halfway.
Another Mertens corner, and another Puggioni catch. Jorginho brings it forward once more, though...
Hamsik sends Maggio clear down the right but his cross bends behind for a goal kick. The crowd are growing ever-more restless. That was Maggio's final act, as Lorenzo Insigne comes into the fray.
However, Chievo's outball has all but disappeared. Sardo wins it well from Mertens but his clearance will come straight back again.
Good play from Rigoni to track Hamsik and win it back inside his own area. Chievo are working so hard at present.
A little late from Maggio on Hetemaj and Chievo win a free kick. For all Napoli's endeavours this half, Puggioni's goal remains largely unthreatened but for that Mertens' effort. And time is running out...
Bentivoglio has run himself into the ground today - he gets a well-earned rest, as Radovanovic is on to replace him.
Almost a hairy moment for Jorginho as Paloschi races on to his backpass but Albiol is there first to clear. Callejon's cross is then cleared by Cesar who gets up to block Hamsik's shot. Napoli piling on the pressure.
Mertens twists and turns trying to make space against Bentivoglio, but he drags his eventual effort wide. You can't fault the guy for trying today, that's for sure.
MERTENS - so unlucky! His effort rattles the foot of the post, and he tries his luck again with a cross which Puggioni just about deals with.
Yellow Card Dario Dainelli
Clever spin from Mertens fools Dainelli and he hauls him down. A foul, a booking, and a dangerous-looking free kick, some 20 yards out...
Paloschi looks to build a counterattack but he came from an offside position. Napoli attack again but it breaks down with Higuain and Sardo brings it clear.
Lovely run from Mertens forces a corner but his delivery is easily cleared. It's been a frustrating outing from the Belgian so far.
Yellow Card Bostjan Cesar
Mertens this time tries the direct route and fizzes a shot wide. Not too far away, but that was very hopeful at best.
Now it's Cesar's turn for a card, after he brings down Mertens, who was racing towards goal. Free kick, some 30 yards out, near the centre.
Yellow Card Christian Maggio
No such luck for Maggio, who slides recklessly through Thereau and earns a booking for his troubles.
Jorginho is certainly eager to impress, but he was a little too eager in bringing down Rigoni from behind there. Referee gives him fair warning.
Jorginho is on for his Napoli debut - can he be the man to make the difference?
Almost an hour gone, and Inler has finally had his first shot from distance. It went well over. Napoli are ramping up the pressure, though.
That's another waste from Mertens. His short kick to Hamsik meant the return pass put him right under pressure and his ensuing cross sails out harmlessly for a goal kick.
It's all got a bit scrappy out there. Inler bustles his way forward, Frey's clearance smacks off his own player and eventually Napoli win a free kick wide on their right.
Chance for Higuain! A first lapse in concentration of the game from Bentivoglio almost gifts the Argentine a sight of goal but Puggioni is out smartly to clear.
Puggioni urges his defence forward before kicking downfield. Chievo's high line is a risk but so far it's worked pretty well.
Maggio picks out Mertens who tries to chest it to Higuain but Frey clears. Hamsik then tries a left-footed shot but it deflects out for a corner, and Albiol can only rifle over the bar from the resulting confusion in the box.
Reveillere somehow heads a stooping header backwards from a free kick but Raffael claims comfortably.
Here we go!
The players are emerging from the San Paolo's bunker-like tunnel - we'll be back underway shortly...
Would you make any changes at half-time? Are Chievo well set to contain Napoli? Should the hosts mix things up?
Well, we wondered if Chievo could spring another shock today, and thus far, they're doing just that. A brilliant goal from Sardo is what separates the sides at the break, and the visitors are good value for their lead. Much to ponder for Benitez at the break...
DRAME - saved! A clever change of direction allows Drame a shot which deflects up off Britos and forces Raffael to parry. And with that, the referee blows for half-time.
Thereau thought he'd robbed Maggio right on the edge of the box there but the referee awards a foul against the Chievo man. He was a little unlucky there, in truth.
Callejon - good save! Clever play from Hamsik as he skips clear of two challenges to find the Spaniard but his low effort is stopped by Puggioni.
Approaching the interval now - can Chievo hang on til the break?
Cesar makes a vital clearance to stop Higuain racing clear on the counter. Inler then finds Mertens, who shifts on to his right and tries a curler, but it sails over the bar.
Hamsik has space to the left of the area but his clipped cross to the back post is just caught by Puggioni, with Callejon lurking.
Bentivoglio wins it back and releases Sardo but Napoli have it back and look to attack again.
MERTENS - OFF THE POST! Lovely play from Callejon and Higuain to free the Belgian inside the area but his right-footed effort smacks off the near post and behind. So close!
A teasing run from Hamsik takes him towards the byline but his low left-foot cross is just cut out by Frey. Hamsik is showing flashes of his true self on his comeback today.
Another dangerous cross from Drame runs all the way across to Sardo. Mertens is back to win the ball back well, though.
Another loose pass, this time from Reveillere, allows Frey to steal the ball from Mertens. Napoli have it back, though.
Maggio strides forward but kicks the ball out of play when trying a simple pass to Callejon. When it's not going your way...
But the delivery is poor again, an easy take for the keeper.
A dangerous cross from Callejon is turned behind for a corner...
Hetemaj is well tackled by Albiol. From the throw-in, the ball is worked to Drame who crosses towards the penalty spot, but Thereau's header is wide of the far post.
A free kick for Napoli this time, but Mertens' in-swinger loops into the gloves of Puggioni.
HIGUAIN - how did he miss?! Napoli break and Hamsik finds Callejon to the left of the area, who fires a cross to the far post where Higuain arrives with the goal at his mercy, but he can only sidefoot wide! Amazing stuff.
More good play involving Bentivoglio and Sardo, but this time Napoli are able to clear - only for the ball to end up back with Puggioni.
Napoli look a little shellshocked here. Their passing is not as crisp as it was and Chievo are looking much more settled.
That really was a bolt from the blue for the men in yellow. Chievo were keeping the ball well without really making any headway, and suddenly Napoli were carved apart. Rafa Benitez will not be happy at all with that, but it was some finish at the end.
Assist Cyril Thereau
Goal Gennaro Sardo
GOOAAAAAAALLLLLLLLL! WHAT A HIT FROM SARDO! A super one-two on the edge of the box sends him free into the area and he unleashes a fabulous right-footed shot into the top corner past Raffael. Stunning strike!
Paloschi is currently receiving treatment on the sidelines for a back problem. Looks to be some strapping being applied across his shoulder blades.
Fine defending from Dainelli! Mertens spilts the defence with a pass to Higuain, who tries to tee up Hamsik, but Dainelli intercepts and turns away from Callejon to relieve the pressure.
Napoli keeping the ball well but Chievo are pressing hard to keep the danger away from their goal. Thereau then carves out a half-chance on the break but Albiol is able to wrestle the ball away.
CHANCE - over the bar from Mertens! His cross was cleared by Drame but Callejon was freed down the right as Napoli attacked again, and Mertens darted into the box to flash a header just over the bar from the Spaniard's cross.
A good call from the referee's assistant there, but less so this time, as he flags for Reveillere's run when the full-back was clearly level.
Good play from Napoli! Maggio's drilled cross is punched away by Puggioni before Dzemaili swings it back in and Mertens volleys wide with the flag raised for offside.
Half a chance for Chievo - good hold-up play from Paloschi allows Hetemaj to get clear down the right but his cross is nodded clear by Albiol.
There's a fantastic noise inside the San Paolo this evening. You can only imagine the impact if the ground were full to capacity...
Maggio's rampage down the right is brought to a halt by Drame, but the officials point for a goal kick, nothing more.
Dainelli clears Mertens' delivery and play is halted, with Drame down needing treatment. Back underway now with Reveillere.
Lovely switch of play from Higuain finds Callejon, whose cross is deflected for a corner...
Good early pressure from Chievo following a free kick, but Albiol eventually hooks it well clear.
And we're off! Chievo in yellow get us underway...
The players are out, hands are shaking, the San Paolo is rocking - we're moments away from kick off!
Napoli are in desperate need of maximum points today to put pressure on Roma and Juventus, having lost a little ground on the top two since the turn of the year. But could relegation candidates Chievo spring another suprise? Fire me your predictions to @JoeWright004 on Twitter before we get underway!
Yet more good news for Napoli is the sight of Pepe Reina back in the squad today (although Rafa Benitez is wary of rushing him back into the side, meaning he warms a spot on the bench). New signing Jorginho also earns a place among the substitutes.
Chievo: Puggioni; Frey, Dainelli, Cesar; Drame, Sardo, Bentivoglio, Rigoni, Hetemaj; Paloschi, Thereau. Today's visitors stick with a 3-5-2 system, and will doubtless be at least a little optimistic of a result having taken points from both AC Milan and Inter this season.
Napoli: Rafael; Maggio, Albiol, Britos, Reveillere; Inler, Dzemaili; Mertens, Hamsik, Callejon; Higuain. A welcome sight for the home support as Marek Hamsik makes his first start since November!
Welcome one and all to Goal's LIVE! coverage of Napoli v Chievo! Sit back and get ready for the first of our weekend Serie A fixtures - team news is on the way...
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