It was back in Week 5 that Sassuolo held Napoli to a 1-1 draw at the San Paolo to claim their first Serie A point of the season. There was to be no repeat of that scoreline here. Blerim Dzemaili and Lorenzo Insigne got the goals to consign Sassuolo to a fifth consecutive league defeat, leaving Alberto Malesani still searching for his first points in charge of the Neroverdi.
Napoli secured a place against Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia final in midweek. Their victory, coupled with the Viola's loss to Inter Milan yesterday strengthens Napoli's grip on the final champions league place, stretching the gap between them and Fiorentina in Serie A to six points.
Paolo Cannavaro faced his hometown club for the first time since leaving in January after eight years at the San Paolo. Sassuolo had a long injury list with Emanuele Terranova, Thomas Manfredini, Davide Biondini, Alexe, Francesco Magnanelli and Gabriele Masucci all sidelined. Aleandro Rosi was suspended.
Napoli put their hosts under pressure and dominated the first half. On eight minutes, Marek Hamsik dribbled past two markers into the box and dragged an effort wide. Napoli's playmaker met another effort on the turn and sent his shot into the stands.
Valon Behrami found Hamsik in the box, but the Slovakian wanted one touch too many and was dispossessed before he could pull the trigger.
Sassuolo rarely threatened Rafael's goal. Antonio Floro Flores sent a 25 yard free-kick wide on 26 minutes. Gianluca Pegolo kept the visitors at bay with a string of saves. The goalkeeper blocked Gonzalo Higuain's point blank volley with his legs, then saved angled drives by Insigne and Higuain at the near post.
Napoli finally found an opening eight minutes before the break. Faouzi Ghoulam pulled the ball back from the byline for Dzemaili to shoot into the ground and take Pegolo by surprise. The ball zipped past a number of players and crept in at the near post.
Rafael got his gloves dirty two minutes before the break when he rushed out to punch clear a Domenico Berardi free kick.
Napoli re-asserted their dominance in the second half. Dries Mertens' byline cross had no Napoli takers, as the ball rolled across the Sassuolo box.
Insigne did double the lead with a solo effort on 56 minutes. Faced against Cannavaro, the Italian international curled a shot around the defender and past the outstretched Pegolo, with the ball nestling inside the far post.
Sassuolo wasted a glorious chance to half the deficit on 69 minutes. Two substitutes combined as Raman Chibsah threaded through for Simone Zaza to spring the offside trap. Zaza rushed his shot and didn't even test Rafael as the ball rolled wide.
Pegolo went to ground to stop Goran Pandev from finding the net on the turn, then watched Mertens volley hit the side netting.
Late on, Insigne rolled wide after being put clear by Pandev and Dzemaili rattled the crossbar from close range. Pegolo pulled off one final stop to deny Mertens after the Belgian's dribble and shot.
Sassuolo: Pegolo; Antei, Cannavaro, Ariaudo; (Floccari 81) Gazzola, Marrone, (Chibsah 67) Brighi, Longhi; Berardi, Floro Flores, (Zaza 62) Sansone
Napoli: Rafael; Maggio, Fernandez, Albiol, Ghoulam; Behrami, (Radosevic 85) Dzemaili; Insigne, Hamsik, (Henrique 80) Mertens; Higuain (Pandev 71)
Goals: Dzemaili 37 (N) Insigne 56 (N)