Napoli pile pressure on Inter
Ezequiel Lavezzi's second-half strike gave Napoli a 1-0 win over struggling Inter Milan, which increased the pressure on Nerazzurri coach Claudio Ranieri after a seventh defeat in eight matches.
The Argentinian striker scored the only goal at the San Paolo with an angled drive on 59 minutes to lift Napoli on to 40 points and fifth place.Inter, who remain in seventh on 36 points, nine off the UEFA Champions League qualifying places, even enjoyed a one-man advantage for the final 12 minutes after Salvatore Aronica's sending off. However, their dismal record of not having won a Serie A match in Naples since 1997 continued.
Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri praised his team. "I'm in love with these guys. It's two years that we've been together and they've grown immensely. This is our fifth game without conceding," he said.
Napoli continued where they left off in the Champions League against Chelsea on Tuesday with Swiss midfielder Blerim Dzemaili, starting for the suspended Marek Hamsik, forcing Julio Cesar into a flying save with a fierce strike on 25 minutes.
Playing in front of another near full house, Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani flashed a header agonisingly wide three minutes later after the in-form Lavezzi had won a free-kick with a dazzling run. Inter came within a whisker of taking the lead two minutes before the break, though, when Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder bent a trademark free-kick just off target.
Sneijder and Uruguayan forward Diego Forlan were replaced at half-time by Giampaolo Pazzini and Ivan Cordoba, but Inter were breached on 59 minutes as Lavezzi picked up Dzemaili's pass before drilling the ball low into the corner.
Brazilian goalkeeper Cesar came to the Nerazzurri's rescue twice in as many minutes, saving bravely from Cavani on 63 minutes before turning aside another Dzemaili strike as Napoli searched for the killer second.
Aronica was given his marching orders for hauling down Pazzini, but the Italian striker nodded a gilt-edged chance wide at the death.