Napoli's woes continued as they dropped yet more winnable points in Serie A on Saturday. They travelled to the Sant'Elia to play mid-table side Cagliari, though they couldn't find a winner after Gonzalo Higuaín's penalty cancelled out Nenê's surprising opener in the first half.
The partenopei were served up a Sardinian surprise in Cagliari's brilliant start to the match, with Diego López's outfit immediately forcing Napoli onto the back foot. They had a reward for their frantic tempo inside the opening 10 minutes, when one-time Napoli target Radja Nainggolan found Davide Astori, who in turn served up a simple pass for veteran striker Nenê to tap in.
The game was blown completely open, and Napoli could've drawn level within 10 minutes had Gonzalo Higuaín not scuffed his shot into the Sant'Elia turf. Cagliari almost capitalised and doubled their advantage as they rapidly switched from defence to attack, though Nainggolan's half-volley at the near post was palmed away by Pepe Reina.
Just inside 20 minutes in, Napoli were given a big boost by some clumsy defending courtesy of Astori. He bundled Goran Pandev down in the penalty area, with Higuaín stepping up to convert the ensuing spot-kick and draw the visitors level. Gradually the game settled down with Napoli in control, though the pace of Cagliari's transitions ensured they were a constant threat to an ever-porous back line.
The opening second half exchanges were rather less gripping than the first, with the halftime break having calmed the hot-headed end-to-end madness. Napoli continued to patiently probe in midfield, though Cagliari comfortably kept the visitors at bay. It looked like a momentary piece of individual brilliance from winger José Callejón had finally given Napoli the lead inside the final 20 minutes, though his low volley from just inside the box was controversially ruled out for offside.
Substitute Dries Mertens should've put Napoli ahead inside the last three minutes of normal time, though his drilled effort from inside the area squirmed agonisingly wide of the Cagliari goal, and the match ended deadlocked. With another point added to their tally, Cagliari continue to float comfortably in midtable. As for Napoli; they could be ten points adrift of league leaders Juventus by the end of the round.
Cagliari: Avramov; Avelar (Ekdal 46'), Astori, Del Fabro, Pisano; Nainggolan, Conti, Dessena; Cossu (Ibraimi 85'); Sau, Nenê (Pinilla 14').
Goals: Nenê (9').
Napoli: Reina (Rafael 46'); Réveillere, Albiol, Fernández, Maggio; Behrami, Džemaili; Insigne (Mertens 71'), Pandev (Zapata 82'), Callejón; Higuaín.
Goals: Higuaín (19').