With a win, Napoli could have moved within two points of Juventus at the top of the table. Instead, they were held to a 0-0 draw by a determined Sampdoria.
It may have ended scoreless, but the match between Napoli and Sampdoria was still awfully entertaining, particularly for the neutrals. However, there were very few neutrals watching this match -- after Juventus lost to AS Roma on Saturday, Napoli had the chance to close the gap on the Serie A leaders to two points. Everyone had a horse to back in this fight, and it was really Juventus rather than Samp that came out on top.
But the visitors did well in Naples, especially considering they could have easily elected to sit back and play for a point. Instead Delio Rossi, pulling the strings from the stands, had his side attacking from the start, with Morgan De Sanctis having to smother a shot from Gianluca Sansone inside the first two minutes.
It was Napoli, however, that had the better of the chances in the first fifteen minutes. Lorenzo Insigne, given a rare league start, was looking lively. He sent in a lovely cross for Edinson Cavani, but Cavani just couldn't find the right position to get the shot away. Then in the seventh minute, Insigne took a chance from distance, with Sergio Romero only able to push the strike away. Unfortunately Cavani failed to capitalize on the rebound.
The home side would come to regret those missed chances, particularly after 20 minutes, when 'Doria really started to find their feet. This time Sansone sent the ball out wide to Andrea Poli, who put it on to Lorenzo De Silvestri. But the angle was too difficult and De Sanctis was able to rescue. Poli then put in his own shot, but this one went wide.
Sampdoria continued to apply pressure as the half went on. In the 34th minute, Andrea Costa got on the end of a cross from Sansone, but again, De Sanctis managed to rescue the header, pushing it wide. A minute later, Valon Behrami rescued the partenopei, performing a last-ditch clearance to stop Mauro Icardi's header from finding the back of the net.
When play resumed, Behrami was forced to play the hero once again, rescuing another Icardi shot. The Argentine then tried his luck from more than 35 yards out, a shot that barely brought a glance from De Sanctis.
Walter Mazzarri attempted to change things up for the final half hour, bringing in Juan Zuniga for Miguel Britos and Goran Pandev for Pablo Armero. Pandev did liven things up for a few minutes, but then he went back to doing what he does best, which is getting into a threatening position and then making nothing out of something.
Napoli's best chance came in the 74th minute, when Marek Hamsik hit the inside of the post. Somehow Romero, who had a great if unorthodox game between the sticks, was able to be in just the right place, collecting the ball when it flew back off the post. Then, in the 80th minute, it was Paolo Cannavaro rattling the woodwork, skimming the top of the bar.
After the 85th minute, normally considered Mazzarri-time for Napoli, the match slid further into a comedy of errors. Pandev managed to get himself into the area, only to fall down rather than take a shot. On the other end, De Sanctis went insane for a moment, charging out of his area to fend off a threat from substitute Maxi Lopez. Lopez fell over but the referee waved play on.
With five minutes of added time, Napoli turned up the pressure, and it was all Sampdoria could do to hold on to a point. With only seconds left, Costa did wonderfully to stick out a leg and force away the ball. The visitors could have snatched all three points with their final move of the match, but Eder, in for Sansone, drove his shot into the side netting.
Napoli: Morgan De Sanctis, Hugo Campagnaro, Paolo Cannavaro, Miguel Britos (Juan Zuniga 61), Giandomenico Mesto, Valon Behrami, Gokhan Inler (Blerim Dzemaili 77), Marek Hamsik, Pablo Armero (Goran Pandev 61), Lorenzo Insigne, Edinson Cavani
Sampdoria: Sergio Romero, Daniele Gastaldello, Jonathan Rossini, Andrea Costa, Lorenzo De Silvestri (Shkodran Mustafi 90), Pedro Obiang, Nenad Krsticic, Andrea Poli, Marcelo Estigarribia, Gianluca Sansone (Eder 66), Mauro Icardi (Maxi Lopez 81)