STADIO PAOLO MAZZA (FERRARA) – Napoli’s dominance over SPAL continued this Sunday evening as the Partenopei left a wet and cold Ferrara with an 11th consecutive Serie A win over Gli Spallini.
Heavy and persistent rain left the pitch saturated on a May evening that wouldn’t have been out of place in late-November, but Carlo Ancelotti’s side overcame the conditions and a late surge from the hosts to clinch the points.
Both sides were always likely to score and so it proved, with each side now netting in 15 of the 16 top flight meetings between them and combining for 57 goals in those games.
The conditions didn’t put either team off from the start and both had their chances in the opening five minutes.
Napoli controlled things early on and Piotr Zielinski possibly should have done better with his chance as he was picked out arriving late into the box but his effort went wide of Emiliano Viviano’s upright.
Sergio Floccari met a cross from Manuel Lazzari at the other end to head over before Viviano’s net became the focus of the action again. Arkadiusz Milik tried his luck twice in the same attack but both times came up just short as Viviano was alert.
The rain wasn’t deterring Napoli from playing their usual game and, if anything, it was helping them to move the ball quickly and cause problems as they probed the Biancazzurri backline. Jose Callejon and Allan had efforts, but neither could find goal.
Then came the moment that every game at the Paolo Mazza has as the Ferrarese’s dormant fury erupted, as ever, in the direction of the referee. Andrea Petagna appeared clear on goal and ready to shoot when he was challenged by Kalidou Koulibaly and when all expected Eugenio Abbattista to point to the spot, his signalling for Petagna to return to his feet was the provocation the home support were waiting for to vent their ever-present anger.
Petagna had a chance soon after as Lazzari continued to be the hosts’ source of trouble. The full-back picked out Petagna with a high and deep cross but the forward’s effort, from a difficult chance, was tame.
Amin Younes should have opened the scoring half an hour in after a winding run found him in front of goal and less than ten yards out but he undid his good work in the buildup by firing wide with Viviano rooted and the entire stadium anticipating seeing the ball nestling in the net.
The second half wasn’t even five minutes old when Carlo Ancelotti’s side did edge in front through Allan. Having his initial effort blocked, the Brazlian remained in the area and Younes gently teed him up to calmly pick out the top corner with a curling effort from the left of Viviano’s goal.
Floccari’s head remained an under-utilised threat and he again saw an effort fly wide after being found from a deep freekick.
Mattia Valoti attempted the spectacular when free in the area but, sadly for him, his effort at an overhead-kick was wild and wayward.
A series of corners then kept Viviano busy and warm. The first almost dropped into his goal itself before he reacted and the second eventually fell for Milik who stung his fingers with a volley before the third passed without much of an issue being presented to the ‘keeper.
SPAL started to up the pressure themselves and Mirco Antenucci’s arrival for Valoti drove them on. They even had the ball in the net but Antenucci was ruled offisde in the buildup.
It was then thanks to Alex Meret that SPAL didn’t level as he got down to ground quickly to excellently deny a close-range Floccari header.
The pressure eventually told when the Ferrarese were awarded a penalty with five minutes to play. Petagna stepped up and, despite an excellent attempt from Meret, his effort couldn’t be stopped on its way into the top corner for his 15th goal of this Serie A season.
But Napoli took the lead again immediately as Mario Rui sealed the points with a powerful effort.
SPAL still had life and chances though, but a second goal wasn’t to come and they ended the day with nothing to show for their late efforts.