An Edinson Cavani goal in the 85th minute of Napoli's visit to Parma has sealed a vital three points for the Neapolitans, reducing the gap to Juventus to just three points. It could, however, have been a completely different result.
It was a crazy, end-to-end game throughout, with Parma seizing control in the opening exchanges. It wasn't, however, the gialloblu who drew first blood, after Marek Hamšík slid Blerim Džemaili's defence-splitting ball beyond Antonio Mirante. The goal came just minutes after Goran Pandev should've opened the scoring, though, in true Pandy fashion, the Macedonian managed to miss the target from six yards.
Parma responded to going a goal down well, and only a series of impressive Morgan De Sanctis stops kept the scores level. De Sanctis had been responsible for Napoli dropping a couple of points away in Florence last weekend, and he was determined to make them up today.
His first stop was the most impressive, keeping Nicola Sansone's point-blank effort out with his feet whilst diving backwards into his own goal, before a goal-line clearance fell to Jaime Valdés , whose drilled shot towards the far post also rebounded off the veteran's legs.
With the half drawing to a close, Napoli managed to attack themselves, with Parma's defence looking almost as shaky as their own when put under pressure. Antonio Mirante made a spectacular reaction stop before denying Edinson Cavani from a free-kick, with Džemaili's one-on-one also being kept out by his former teammate. Cavani had another great chance right before the whistle, though his glancing header went wide of the far post.
As the second half began, Napoli hoped -- and Parma fans feared -- that the crociati would have lost the momentum and intensity which was so impressive in the first half. They hadn't. Alessandro Lucarelli skimmed the bar with a long range effort before Marco Parolo's drilled shot from the edge of the area was deflected just wide.
Even with Amauri making an appearance from the bench, it felt like a goal was imminent. Its scorer was predictable. Nicola Sansone -- the young winger who has already salvaged points with goals against Inter and Juventus this season -- squeezed a shot from a tight angle towards goal. Deflecting off of the returning Paolo Cannavaro, it went over De Sanctis and into the net, as Napoli fans collectively groaned about their captain's match-fixing ban being overturned, and grumbled that Marco Donadel had actually been brought on in place of Gökhan Inler.
Napoli roared back in anger, and Lorenzo Insigne forced Mirante into tipping the ball over the bar before the out-of-sorts Cavani scuffed a shot from inside the area straight at the goalkeeper. Cavani and Napoli, however, weren't done yet.
With little over five minutes of normal time remaining, El Matador was sent through on goal, rounding Mirante before stroking the ball into the back of the net, ending Parma's excellent unbeaten home run and breaking Emilian hearts. The neutrals, with the title race well and truly on, were rather more jubilant.
Parma (4-3-3): Antonio Mirante; Massimo Gobbi, Fabiano Santacroce (Alessandro Lucarelli 28), Gabriel Paletta, Aleandro Rosi (Amauri 70); Marco Parolo, Jaime Valdés, Marco Marchionni; Nicola Sansone (Yohan Benalouane 78), Ishak Belfodil, Jonathan Biabiany
Napoli (3-4-1-2): Morgan De Sanctis; Miguel Britos, Paolo Cannavaro, Hugo Campagnaro; Camilo Zúñiga, Blerim Džemaili, Gökhan Inler (Marco Donadel 63), Giandomenico Mesto (Pablo Armero 78); Marek Hamšík; Edinson Cavani, Goran Pandev (Lorenzo Insigne 66)
Goals: Hamšík 20 (N) Paolo Cannavaro o.g. 74 (P) Edinson Cavani 85 (N)