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January 6, 2014
• Stadio San Paolo, Napoli
Referee: L. Banti
• Attendance: 56225
D. Mertens 53', 62'
Two goals from Dries Mertens were enough to break a solid Sampdoria resistance for Rafa Benitez's men, who close to within two points of second-placed Roma. Samp will rue two efforts which somehow failed to cross the line after hitting the woodwork (twice, in one instance) but it's Napoli who take the spoils with a deserved win. There's more Serie A action to come today, so stick with Goal for all the coverage!
90' + 4'
And that's that! Napoli close out proceedings to secure a 2-0 win on their return to action in 2014.
Four minutes of injury time to be played.
INSIGNE! So close! Lovely move involving Dzemaili and Zapata ends with Insigne skipping inside from the left and firing right-footed just past the far post.
Insigne needs a bit of care after taking a Costa cross firmly in the ribs. Napoli ultimately win a throw, which Maggio takes deep in his own half.
Five minutes plus stoppage time to go, and Sampdoria's race looks to be run here.
Zapata wins a corner off Gastaldello. Mertens' delivery is poor, but his second effort reaches Fernandez, though Da Costa catches in the end.
Half a chance for Sampdoria as Insigne is pushed off the ball and Eder picks out Sansone on the far side, but his throughball to Pozzi is cut out by Armero, though the flag was up for offside. With that, Napoli make their final change - Radosevic is on for Callejon.
Yellow Card Duván Zapata
Callejon - good save! Maggio's ball evades everyone and Callejon has a free shot on goal from inside the area but it's straight at Da Costa, who palms it away.
That really was a bizarre moment. Even the fifth official behind the goal seemed amazed that it didn't cross the line.
POZZI - NO! How on earth did that not go in?? The substitutes combine as Sansone feeds Pozzi, who turns on to his left foot and bends it around Raffael, but it hits the far post, rolls across the line and hits the other! Incredible stuff.
Higuain has done his job, and he is replaced by Duvan Zapata. Krstisic is also replaced by Pozzi in Sampdoria's third and final change.
CORRECTION: Callejon actually missed it completely and it hit Costa for a corner, which Mertens heads wide.
Armero's throw is intercepted but Palombo kicks it straight to Dzemaili. Callejon then tried an audacious flick after Maggio's pass but it's out for a goal kick.
Another change for the visitors as Andrea Costa replaces Regini, who was on a tightrope after that earlier booking.
Higuain again gets clear in the area but can't the ball from going behind. Sampdoria need to find a foothold here.
INSIGNE - oh dear! A great pass from Mertens evades both Higuain and De Silvestri and finds Insigne in acres of space inside the area. He steadies himself, takes aim - and fires well over the bar. What a miss.
Maggio linking well with Insigne this time but Sampdoria close the angles and clear. Armero then charges forward but Palombo can clear again.
Change for Sampdoria - Sansone is on for Soriano, who had struggled to get in the game in the second half.
Da Costa will be disappointed not to save that, although the deflection will have affected the flight of the ball as it bounced right on the line.
Goal Dries Mertens
Yellow Card Shkodran Mustafi
GOAAAALLLL!!! It's Mertens again! He fires a free kick from 25 yards, it takes a little nick off the wall and escapes the reach of Da Costa. Napoli in control!
At the other end, Regini concedes a corner but Mertens and Dzemaili waste it trying to be too intricate.
GABBIADINI! How did that stay out?! Eder picks him out on the right, he drives infield and rifles a shot that flies past Raffael and thunders off the underside of the crossbar.
That was a real classy finish from Mertens, who's been hit and miss with his end product today. Napoli will doubtless feel more settled now after Sampdoria had started the half strongly.
GOOOAAAAALLLLL! MERTENS BREAKS THE DEADLOCK! Callejon slips it through to Higuain, who cuts back to the Belgian inside the area, and he sweeps home in style into the bottom corner. Napoli lead!
Assist Gonzalo Higuaín
Goal Dries Mertens
Callejon! It's a poor delivery from the Belgian but it bounces through to Callejon, who drives for the byline and rifles a shot across goal just over the bar.
Mertens' free kick is headed behind for a corner...
Brilliant run from De Silvestri, bustling his way into the area before firing tamely at the near post. The crowd are getting a little frustrated here.
Early change for Napoli - Reveillere is withdrawn for Armero. More or less like for like swap.
Eder again! The forward twists and turns in the area but his effort is straight at Raffael. Good start to the half from Sampdoria.
Nice ball from Krstisic but Eder is closed down well by Albiol.
The teams are back out on the pitch - will we see any goals this half?
Yellow Card Dries Mertens
And that's that for the first 45. A lively start at the San Paolo but Sampdoria have done well to wise up to Napoli's movement, and it's a firm deadlock at half-time.
Yellow Card Gonzalo Higuaín
And now Mertens, for stopping Soriano in his tracks in unceremonious style. It's all got a bit scrappy at the end of the half here.
Yellow card for Higuain, this time. Looked to be for dissent, after he waved a disgusted arm at the referee following a foul by Dzemaili.
Yellow Card Vasco Regini
Another decent opening for Sampdoria - Obiang feeds Soriano out wide and he tries to clip a cross to the completely free Gabbiadini at the far post but it's overhit. A few nearly moments for the visitors in this half - Napoli living dangerously at times.
Regini now enters the referee's notebook after lunging at Dzemaili in the centre-circle.
Another chance for Napoli! Higuain turns Gastaldello like he wasn't there and bends a cross to the far post but Insigne can only prod it over on the stretch. That all came from a counterattack after Eder had fired a shot straight at Raffael.
Decent cross from Higuain but De Silversti tracks Insigne's run and makes sure it comes to nothing. One or two very tentative penalty shouts as the attacker goes to ground, but that may have been from some of the San Paolo faithful, who are growing just a little bored now.
Obiang performs an admirable bird-like flap at the ball and will earn the first yellow card of the afternoon. From the free kick, Mertens once more faces up De Silvestri and drives into the area but the defender shoulders him out of danger and it's a goal kick.
Yellow Card Pedro Obiang
It's taken just under 35 minutes, but Inler has finally had his first shot from distance. He turns well to create space but his 30-yard effort sails over. More will come, I'm sure.
EDER! That was a chance. De Silvestri's cross picks out the forward near the penalty spot but his shot on the turn is high and wide. Tough to get that on target but a decent opening in the context of the game.
So close! Higuain is released into the area and fires across goal left-footed but Mertens just can't stretch enough to get a boot on the ball with the goal gaping.
That's better. Eder runs the ball clear to buy his side some time, and almost finds himself through moments later after Gabbiadini's flick but the flag is up. A bit more hustle and bustle from the forward now, though.
Sampdoria need more from Eder here. Napoli are winning the ball back far too quickly when the visitors clear their lines and the attacks - though not yet incisive - keep coming.
Almost a delightful chip over the defence from Mertens for Higuain, but Mustafi just about climbs high enough to head it away.
Napoli are pressing hard here. Insigne's pass to Mertens is a little short and Obiang clatters into the forward but no foul is given.
CALLEJON! Close! The Spaniard again picks up the ball with space in behind the Sampdoria midfield. He bustles his way past De Silvestri and tries to place a shot into the top corner from dead centre but he can't find the target.
Da Costa gives it away under pressure, Callejon picks it up and plays back to Mertens but his shot is dragged wide. Sampdoria were quick to close the angles there but they'll thank the keeper not to repeat that too often.
It seems to be catching - at the other end, Higuain turns to create space and drives towards the 18-yard line but kicks the ground and his shot bounces wide.
Gabbiadini threatens again for Samp - some good hold-up play down the right and a one-two with Soriano tees him up for a shot, but he scuffs it and it bobbles through to Raffael.
Mertens swings in a free kick from the left but Sampdoria clear. It's all settled down a little after something of a frantic start.
GOAL - no! Offside! Krstisic at the heart of a clever move for Sampdoria but the flag is correctly raised after he strayed ahead of Albiol.
It's been a lively start here - very open in the middle of the park, with both sides keen to get forward. Napoli really should be ahead, though.
HIGUAIN! What a save! The Argentine is picked out in the middle of the area and volleys at goal but Da Costa sticks out a leg to save. Huge chance for Napoli.
Mertens! The winger bursts clear down the left, cuts inside and aims a right-footed shot at the near post but Da Costa is alert and saves well.
Sampdoria break forward again and Soriano finds space on the edge of the area but gets right under his shot. Harmless effort in the end.
Better from Sampdoria. Some efficient ball retention in midfield leads to a long pass over the top for Gabbiadini, but his header across goal is cleared. Visitors are starting to settle now. They now have a free kick deep in the Napoli half.
Gastaldello wins it back from Insigne and goes back to Da Costa. The defender has been pretty busy in these opening few minutes.
Chance for Callejon! Insigne this time makes strides down the flank and cuts it across for the Spaniard, but he can't get enough on his backheel and the keeper claims. Bright start from the home side.
Napoli go forward with Callejon and his cross is diverted safely back to Da Costa.
And we're off!
Here come the players - we're moments away, folks!
There's a very decent crowd at the San Paolo today. Napoli might be firmly in Juventus' wake when it comes to the Scudetto race, but just try telling their supporters that...
The players are in the dressing rooms quite literally pulling their socks up as they prepare for Serie A action in 2014. Just over five minutes til we kick off at the San Paolo...
And the visitors today:Da Costa; De Silvestri, Mustafi, Gastaldello, Regini; Obiang, Palombo; Gabbiadini, Krsticic, Soriano; EderEder is likely to lead the line with Manolo Gabbiadini doing his level best to support.
Right, let's have some team news, starting with Napoli: Rafael; Maggio, Fernandez, Albiol, Reveillere; Inler, Dzemaili; Mertens, Callejon, Insigne; HiguainThere's a start for Fernandez alongside Albiol in defence, while Marek Hamsik and Pepe Reina remain sidelined, meaning starts for Rafael in goal and Dries Mertens in attack.
Rafa Benitez's side can close to within two points of Roma with victory today after the Giallorossi were seen off in style by Juventus yesterday, but Samp will be eager for the points that could see them leapfrog AC Milan in the table...
Greetings one and all - welcome to Goal's LIVE play-by-play coverage of Napoli v Sampdoria!
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