Napoli secured a 3-1 win over struggling SPAL at the Stadio San Paolo in Serie A on Sunday to continue their excellent form since the return from the enforced break.
The Azzurri went ahead with almost their first attack courtesy of a clever chipped finish from Dries Mertens, although SPAL responded with a first half equaliser through Andrea Petagna, against his parent club.
Jose Callejon instantly restored the home side’s advantage and despite SPAL pushing for a leveller in the second half, substitute Amin Younes sealed a third consecutive victory with a header late on.
Napoli wasted no time in asserting their dominance as they raced into the lead after only four minutes. A rapid counter allowed Callejon to break and after his shot was blocked, Fabian Ruiz slipped Mertens in with a sumptuous pass for the Belgian to dink the ball over goalkeeper Karlo Letica.
The hosts were in complete control and enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the opening quarter of the match, with Ruiz and Elif Elmas squandering efforts inside the penalty area.
However, against the run of play SPAL levelled through Napoli loanee Petagna. After Lorenzo Insigne struck the post for Napoli at one end, Arkadiusz Reca bombed forward down the left wing and cut back for Petagna to slot beyond Alex Meret on the half-hour mark.
The equaliser sparked Napoli back into life and they regained the lead just five minutes later, with Callejon latching onto a clever Elmes lofted pass across the penalty area. The Spaniard timed his run to perfection before bringing the ball under control and firing into the bottom corner.
Napoli looked to have extended their lead with the final kick of the first half after Insigne tucked away Mertens’ cutback in a crowded box, but a lengthy VAR consultation ruled the latter offside in the build up.
The early dominance in the second half belonged to Napoli, and Insigne forced a good stop with an acrobatic effort. However, it was SPAL that came closest to netting, as substitute Mattia Valoti picked up a loose ball and fired a curling effort from range, forcing Meret to tip the ball around the post.
However, the match was put beyond all doubt when substitute Younes scored with his first touch midway through the second period. The midfielder came off the bench to nod in a teasing Ruiz cross at the back post after some neat build up play.
The home side continued to push for more late on and almost extended their lead with 10 minutes remaining, but Faouzi Ghoulam’s bending freekick was well held.
Ultimately the Partenopei secured victory to close in on fifth-placed Roma, whilst SPAL remain rooted to the foot of the table.