In the first half, Napoli played some of the worst football they've displayed over the past two seasons. They had their chances, yes, but it was Genoa who took control of the match, and it was no surprise when the home side went into the break with a 1-0 lead.
The visitors' first attempt came via Goran Pandev, who saw his shot blocked by the face of Andreas Granqvist. In the 13th minute, Napoli squandered what was their best chance of the half. Marek Hamsik sent an absolutely gorgeous pass to Edinson Cavani, but El Matador had no chance for goal, so he sent the ball over the defense toward Christian Maggio. Maggio's header was, unsurprisingly, directed into the side netting.
Napoli's mistakes allowed Genoa to grow in confidence. In the 15th minute, Ciro Immobile managed to break free behind the Napoli defense, but the forward placed his shot wide. No mistakes were made in the 23rd minute, however. Daniel Tozser had his shot blocked by Paolo Cannavaro, but the partenopei were unable to clear. Immobile made them pay, driving in the rebound.
The partenopei came out better in the second half. Lorenzo Insigne, who replaced a limping Pandev, looked lively. Walter Mazzarri introduced Giandomenico Mesto for Hugo Campagnaro in the 50th minute, and the Napoli defender made his mark almost immediately. After a tricky maneuver from Insigne, who played a game of keepy-up to maintain possession, the diminutive forward dinked the ball to Mesto, whose angled drive settled into the far corner.
Napoli's equalizer lasted less than one minute, however, as Genoa exposed their defensive weaknesses almost immediately. Immobile began the move, racing down the left, before sending the ball in to Luca Antonelli. He quickly rolled the ball on to Andrea Bertolacci, who had an easy tap-in to put the rossoblu in front once again.
Genoa very nearly took a 3-1 lead just a few minutes later, when Bosko Jankovic's excellent free kick very nearly found the far corner of the net. Insigne had an excellent chance to equalize on the other end, but his sharp shot hit the crossbar instead.
Cavani, absolutely determined to put his side back on level terms, went charging into the area, only to find himself flat on his back. Rather than moan for a penalty, the Uruguayan used his toe to poke the ball over to Mesto, who squandered a great chance at bagging a brace by sending his shot over the goal.
But Cavani got his own just two minutes later, in the 79th minute. Hamsik sent in another wonderful pass. Sebastien Frey came charging out of goal, but Cavani easily rounded the keeper to dink the ball into the back of the net.
Then Mazzarri-time, so integral to the team two seasons ago, came roaring back with a vengeance -- and the Napoli mister didn't even need to get himself sent off to fire up his side. In the final minute of normal time,
Insigne Mesto came flying down the right side. He pulled the ball back to center, and Hamsik flew in with a diving header, putting his side in front for the first time in the match.
Genoa did their best to equalize, but wound up falling behind even further, victims of another classic Napoli counter-attack. Cavani and Insigne both tore up the pitch. Cavani fed the ball to Insigne, one on one with Frey. The keeper could do nothing except fall over backward, the ball easily settling into the back of the net.