Hellas Verona vs. Napoli, final score 0-3: Napoli conquer fortress Verona

Dino Panato

Napoli became only the second side this season to defeat Hellas Verona at home. They recorded an emphatic 3-0 victory at the Bentegodi.

Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne and Blerim Dzemaili got the goals to stretch Napoli's lead over fourth-place Fiorentina to five points. Before Sunday, Verona had won eight out of their nine home games, but Napoli's attacking prowess proved to be superior.

Marek Hamsik returned to the bench after six weeks out with a foot injury. Pepe Reina, Juan Zuniga, Paolo Cannavaro, Giandomenico Mesto and Valon Behrami were all injured. Both sides had a Brazilian named Rafael keeping goal for them.

Verona caused plenty of problems early. Federico Fernandez's slip in the area almost let Luca Toni in, but the defender recovered to spare his side's blushes. Juan Iturbe then curled a shot over the bar from the right wing.

Jorginho's through ball was just a yard ahead of an outstretched Toni, who had cleverly got between his two markers. Toni and Iturbe competed for the same header, resulting in an easy catch for Rafael Cabral. The Napoli shot stopper bravely fisted clear Emil Hallfredsson's cross with the ball destined for Jorginho's head.

Napoli finally settled and went close on two occasions midway through the first half. Gonzalo Higuain collected Pablo Armero's cutback, but saw a first-time shot beaten away by Rafael. Fewer than 30 seconds later, the Argentine sent another effort into the side netting.

Higuain turned provider to create the game's opening goal at the 27-minute mark. The forward's pass played in Mertens, who cut inside the area to curl a shot past the outstretched Rafael and in off the far post. It was the Belgian's third strike in two games.

The goal knocked the wind out of Verona's sails, allowing Napoli to take over. Higuain held off Domenico Maietta to roll a shot just past the far post. Two minutes before halftime, a quick counter attack gave Jose Callejon a clear sight at goal. Rafael did well to keep out the Spaniard's angled drive.

Andrea Mandorlini apparently galvanised Verona during the interval. His side came out for the second half much like they did the first. Iturbe ran past three players to release Toni just two minutes after the restart. The Napoli defence had parted to give the veteran a clear sight of goal, but he opted to hit his shot straight down the middle and Rafael managed to beat it away. Moments later, Rafael smothered Romulo's low cross before Toni could pounce.

Again, Verona couldn't sustain the pressure and the visitors found their feet. Goran Pandev volleyed over into the box, then shot straight at Rafael after latching onto Callejon's pass. The away side neutralised the home side's attacks with some good defending. Raul Albiol charged down a shot from Evangelos Moras before Fernandez stood firm and thwarted Juanito Gomez Taleb in the box.

Mertens attempted to replicate his first half strike, but the ball went over the bar. The Partenopei doubled their lead on 72 minutes. Mertens found Christian Maggio on the overlap, and the fullback's ball across the six yard box was tapped in by Insigne. It was the substitute's first domestic strike of the season.

Napoli made the game safe four minutes later, after quickly turning defence into attack. Rafael could only parry Insigne's shot into the path of Dzemaili, who knocked in his fourth goal of the campaign.

Verona: Rafael; Cacciatore, Maietta, Moras, Agostini; Hallfredsson, (Martinho 67) Jorginho, Romulo; Iturbe, (Donadel 81) Toni, Gomez Taleb (Cacia 77)

Napoli: Rafael Cabral; Maggio, Fernandez, Albiol, Armero; Inler, (Radosevic 82) Dzemaili; Mertens, Pandev, (Insigne 67) Callejon; Higuain (Britos 80)

Goals: Mertens 27 (N) Insigne 72 (N) Dzemaili 76 (N)

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