Torino 0-1 Napoli: Higuain’s last gasp strike steals victory for Partenopei
The Granata were made to rue their missed chances in the second-half after Gonzalo Higuain stole a victory for the Partenopei with a goal in the 89th minute.
Having seen his side succumb to three defeats on the bounce without scoring, Giampiero Ventura surprised everyone with his starting line-up, omitting Toro’s two star performers Alessio Cerci and Ciro Immobile.
The game got off to an inconspicuous start with both teams struggling to settle into a rhythm and it wasn’t until the 18th minute that the tie had its first meaningful shot on goal.
Riccardo Meggiorini found some space just outside the box but his low drive was shovelled away by Pepe Reina.
The Partenopei gradually edged their way into the game and after Jorginho’s incisive pass found Jose Callejon unmarked in the Toro area, no one was poaching in the six-yard box to capitalise on the Spaniards low cross.
However it was the Granata who were enjoying the best of the first-half exchanges and approaching the 30 minute mark Cesare Bovo almost brought the game to life after his long-range screamer caromed off the upright.
Although Torino had the impetus for the majority of the half, both sides looked more content playing on the counter attack in a tentative first 45 minutes of football.
The home side were on the front foot again in the early stages of the second-half, Omar El Kaddouri bending a side-foot effort into the arms of the Vesuviani shot stopper.
This breathed some life into the game, in particular Higuain who had been a peripheral figure in the first-half, his turn and shot on the edge of the area forcing Daniele Padelli into a smart save.
Moments later Toro should have broken the deadlock after some neat interchange between Barreto and Meggiorini released the Italian in the area, his first time effort had Reina beaten but once again struck the upright.
Matteo Darmian then struck a fearsome drive from range however the former Liverpool keeper was equal to the task at his near post.
Buoyed by his sides attacking threat Ventura then brought his top scorer Immobile into the fray while Rafael Benitez tried to sure up his midfield by introducing Valon Behrami.
Dries Merten’s had drifted in and out of the game when he won the Azzurri a free-kick after he was cynically felled by Kamil Glik, however Higuain wasted a promising position after he blazed his effort wide of the right hand post.
To the delight of the home crowd, Cerci was introduced on the 70 minute mark and this appeared to give Toro a lift.
Jasmin Kurtic pick-pocketed Behrami and after driving into the Partenopei area he pulled the ball back for Immobile who unmarked and 12-yards out could only blast the ball hopelessly over.
Napoli’s Belgian then came close in the final five minutes, feinting to shoot and cutting inside on his right-foot where he unleashed a stinging drive that Padelli had to tip round the post.
It would prove to be a brief reprieve as Benitez’s men struck late f0r the second week running, Higuain racing through on goal after Glik stumbled and despite Padelli’s best efforts the Argentinian drove home to score his 14th goal in Serie A to give Napoli a fortuitous but vital three points.
Follow Luca Hodges-Ramon on Twitter: @LH_Ramon25