Napoli win keeps up Champions League drive
Napoli kept in the UEFA Champions League driving seat with a crucial 2-0 victory over Palermo in the Italian Serie A on Tuesday.
The victory maintained the southerners' grip on third place ahead of Wednesday's games when either Udinese, Inter Milan or Lazio could join them.
With just two games to go, Napoli are ideally placed to qualify for Europe's premier club competition for the second time in a row. Head-to-head records and not goal difference count if teams finish level on points at the season's end, and Napoli have the edge on both Udinese and Inter, although not Lazio.
They almost got off to a flying start in the derby of the Two Sicilies as Gokhan Inler thudded the post with a rising shot from outside the box. But goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis had to come to their rescue moments later with two quick-fire saves, first with his knees from Josip Ilicic and then at full-stretch from Abel Hernandez's header.
However, Milan Milanovic inadvertently handled Goran Pandev's cross, the ball rebounding off his thigh onto his arm, and the referee pointed to the spot. Palermo complained bitterly, but Milanovic's arm clearly prevented the ball from going into the danger area and Cavani improved his poor penalty record this season - he has missed five out of nine - with the goal from the spot on 16 minutes.
Ilicic produced a moment of magic to skip away from Salvatore Aronica, but Paolo Cannavaro came quickly across to snuff out the danger. But Napoli doubled their advantage when Pandev's great vision released Hamsik to prod home from 15 yards.
Cavani could have had a second but failed to hit the target when escaping alone after the break. Abel Hernandez thought he had reignited the fire in this clash, but his strike was ruled out for offside.