An Arkadiusz Milik brace helped Napoli return to winning ways as they recorded a late 3-2 victory over Bologna at the Stadio San Paolo on Saturday.
The striker headed the Partenopei into an early lead, before overturning a Federico Santander goal with another header just after half-time, as Napoli looked to have put their controversial 1-0 defeat to Inter on Boxing Day behind them.
Despite Danilo drawing Bologna level for a second time late on, a long-range Dries Mertens strike ensured the home side took all three points.
Napoli took the lead after a quarter of an hour, as Milik turned home a loose ball following some pinballing in the box. A low cross was poorly cleared and fell to Mertens, and whilst the Belgian’s touch and shot was quickly charged down, the rebound fell to Milik to stroke in.
The home side were looking comfortable and almost doubled their lead midway the first half, as Mertens brought a long ball under control on his chest before spinning and sending a dipping shot towards the top corner. It took a one-handed tip over the bar to keep the stylish effort out.
With the pressure piling on, Bologna were struggled to get out of their half and were fortunate to escape once more on the half hour mark, as Napoli’s front pairing linked up again. Mertens found space out wide and bent a teasing cross into the box, only for the towering Milik to send his close-range header wide.
Napoli’s wastefulness was punished towards the end of the half, as Bologna drew level against the run of play. A whipped in freekick was flicked on by Rodrigo Palacio for Santander to nod in.
The hosts came flying out of the blocks in the second half and, after Jose Callejon squandered a loose ball at the back post from a corner, swiftly retook the lead through Milik again. Showing great strength to hold off Federico Mattiello, the Poland international found space in the six-yard box and head Kevin Malcuit’s clever flick beyond the reach of compatriot Lukasz Skorupski, for his 10th goal of the season.
The former Ajax striker was in lethal form and came within inches of sealing his hattrick, as he latched onto a Fabian Ruiz through ball and drove the ball goalward, forcing a low save at the near post.
Napoli would live to rue the miss though as Bologna drew level late on through another header. Erick Pulgar’s dangerous freekick was missed by Raul Albiol and Danilo rose highest to guide the ball into the back of the net.
Just as the match looked to be heading for a draw, Mertens sent the home fans into delirium with a strike from range that flew past Skorupski and into the bottom corner.
In an enthralling final few minutes, Bologna almost pulled level again from a corner, as a near-post flick on was heading into the back of the net until Mario Rui’s acrobatic goalline clearance.
Ultimately, Napoli held on for victory to consolidate second place, whilst Bologna remain in the relegation zone.