Napoli vs. Genoa, final score 2-0: Unspectacular but important win for Napoli

Giuseppe Bellini

It wasn't their most polished performance, though it was nevertheless an important win in Napoli's fight for second, while Genoa stay in the bottom three.

First half goals from Goran Pandev and Blerim Džemaili were enough for victory, with Edinson Cavani squandering several second half chances -- including a penalty -- which would have added the azzurri icing to their Champions League cake. It leaves Napoli nine points in arrears of league leaders Juventus, but they've opened their lead over third place AC Milan to four points. With Siena picking up a draw with Parma today, Genoa stay in the bottom three.

The relegation strugglers almost got off to the perfect start when Andrea Bertolacci got a shot away in the opening couple of minutes, though his well-placed effort was smothered by the diving Morgan De Sanctis. It was the first chance in a lively opening, with Sébastien Frey parrying a Goran Pandev shot away from inside the box minutes later.

In a strange reversal of real life, the Macedonian was Napoli's most dangerous player early on, curling a shot wide from the edge of the box just short of a quarter-of-an-hour in, before opening the scoring a few minutes later. His shot from inside the box was deflected into the roof of the net, and the partenopei settled their nerves with an early lead.

But, Napoli being Napoli, they needed a second goal to feel safe. Genoa were probing with Ciro Immobile making dangerous runs in behind the Neapolitans' defence, and was caught offside a couple of times before Blerim Džemaili lowered Walter Mazzarri's heart rate by adding a second. Half-an-hour in he was slipped through on goal in a quick counter-attack, and drove the ball inside the far post.

The game could have been signed and sealed by Marek Hamšík before the break, though after a mazy run into the box, Frey managed to keep his shot out. After the restart he frustrated Edinson Cavani, too, after El Matador glided past Andreas Granqvist before hitting his shot right at the French goalkeeper.

Only Genoa's wing-back Luca Antonelli prevented Cavani finally putting the game beyond doubt with a crucial tackle ten minutes into the second half, when he managed to just get a touch on the Uruguayan's close-range shot to deflect it behind.

It really wasn't Cavani's day, and things got markedly worse after the hour, when he maintained his appalling penalty conversion rate after Hamsik was bundled through in the area by Juraj Kucka. Putting the low, weak penalty fairly central, it was a comfortable save for Frey.

It wasn't total Napoli domination, with Genoa testing De Sanctis with a couple of efforts of their own. Napoli wanted the third goal to put the game beyond doubt, though it wasn't to be. In the end it was a fairly comfortable victory, though their failure to take their opportunities when they came could have cost them on another day.

Napoli: Morgan De Sanctis; Miguel Britos, Paolo Cannavaro, Hugo Campagnaro; Pablo Armero, Marek Hamšík (Omar El Kaddouri 88), Blerim Džemaili, Valon Behrami (Gökhan Inler 75), Christian Maggio; Edinson Cavani, Goran Pandev (Lorenzo Insigne 78)

Genoa: Sébastien Frey; Emiliano Moretti, Daniele Portanova, Andreas Granqvist; Luca Antonelli, Marco Rigoni, Matuzalém, Juraj Kucka (Cristóbal Jorquera 68), Boško Janković (Rubén Olivera 58); Ciro Immobile, Andrea Bertolacci (Juan Manuel Vargas 52)

Goals: Pandev 18 (N) Džemaili 29 (N)

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