A superb Dries Merten’s goal was enough to condemn Cagliari to a 1-0 home defeat at the Sardegna Arena on Sunday evening, and in doing so move his side above the hapless Isolani.
The defeat leaves Rolando Maran’s side winless in 10 and struggling to reverse their terrible run of form as they slip further down the Serie A standings, while Napoli rise to eighth place in table.
Mertens curled a fantastic effort in off the post on the 65th minute with Alessio Cragno helpless between the sticks to give Gennaro Gattuso’s team a lead they would then hold onto.
A drab first half finished 0-0 with little in the way of chances for the two sides. Napoli had more of the possession but failed to inspire at the business end of the pitch, whereas Cagliari lacked fluidity as has been the story of late.
The Casteddu only had two notable chances, both of which fell to Gaston Pereiro on his full debut. Firstly, he cut in and curled a shot toward the top corner, but David Ospina handled comfortably and then he slalomed his way through several Napoli players, before dropping a shoulder and scuffing wide on his weaker right foot.
Kostas Manolas probably wasted the best chance of the half for the visitors, a combination of head and shoulder sending a Jose Callejon freekick over the crossbar.
Eljif Elmas skinned Fabio Pisacane on the halfway line before dashing toward the edge of the area where he was upended by Sebastian Walukievicz. The defender was booked for his efforts before Mertens stuck the resulting freekick wide of Cragno’s post.
The second period started with a slightly higher tempo, Pereiro again proving Cagliari’s best attacking outlet when he fired over from outside the area.
For the Partenopei, Piotr Zielinski saw a long-ranged shot saved well and then fired another wide from the corner, with Cragno untroubled on the second occasion.
Mertens then did what he always seems to do against Cagliari, scoring with a superb, curled effort to punish the home side for some more sloppy defending.
Cagliari did their best to find an equaliser, but to no avail as their early season dreams of a European spot seem to be fading rapidly.
Post-match scenes were slightly unsavoury when Cagliari’s Curva Nord directed a barrage abuse toward their team, the players having made their way over to salute the fans who were more than unimpressed.