Napoli kept up the heat on Serie A leaders AC Milan with an efficient 2-0 victory at mid-table Bologna. Giuseppe Mascara opened the scoring after half an hour and Marek Hamsik doubled the visitors' lead from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time. The triumph saw Walter Mazzarri's side move provisionally level on points with Milan, who visit Fiorentina tonight.
Bologna created the first chance of the game when Marco Di Vaio sent a powerful shot just wide after five minutes, but the Partenopei hit back immediately with an even better chance. Mascara, starting in place of suspended star striker Edinson Cavani, produced a dangerous low cross from the left, but Ezequiel Lavezzi was just unable to connect.
Lavezzi then had a fierce attempt deflected away for a corner by Daniele Portanova before the visitors made the breakthrough. Andrea Dossena's sublime diagonal ball found Christian Maggio on the right wing and he in turn sent in a fine cross for Lavezzi. His back-heeled flick was not heading in, but Bologna goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano got his hand to it, and in an attempt to clear, diverted it into the path of Mascara who slotted home.
"I am really happy to have finally scored for Napoli," said Mascara. "It's a relief and a great joy to be able to give our fans some satisfaction. My goal was important as it allowed the team to play with more confidence. It was not an easy game as Bologna had come from a tough loss and were determined to do well against us.
"We passed the test with flying colours, but we have to remain humble because there are six games left to play and anything can happen."
Before the hosts could recover they found themselves two down. Hamsik teed up Lavezzi when the pair found themselves through on goal with only Viviano to beat, but the goalkeeper brought down Lavezzi and Hamsik sent the resulting penalty straight down the middle.
Bologna raised their game in the second half and created more chances, but the game was effectively over at the interval.
Morgan De Sanctis made a vital low save in the 53rd minute to keep out a 25-yard Di Vaio effort and then the same player got the better of the Napoli goalkeeper from a long ball, but could only find the side-netting with the goal gaping. Viviano then made a decent reflex save from Lavezzi and kept out a volley from Hamsik as Napoli looked to extend their advantage.
Bologna never gave up, but were unable to find a way back, Di Vaio inches away from providing the finishing touch nine minutes from time and then De Sanctis brilliantly pushing Nicolo Cherubin's spectacular 25-yard volley over the bar at full stretch.