With little to no room for error chasing Juventus, Napoli’s title chances appeared to be set for a big hit, but a controversial sending-off and a dramatic late goal saw them through with a 2-1 victory over 13th-placed Sampdoria.
A relatively tragic own-goal in the first half off the chest of Napoli defender Elseid Hysaj pegged the home side back a half-hour in, and they appeared unable to mount any sort of sustained attack as they looked to get back level.
Fortunately for the Stadio San Paolo faithful, they were the recipients of a sympathetic refereeing decision that bolstered the side. Sampdoria defender Matias Silvestre received a controversial second yellow card in the 61st minute for a foul on Pepe Reina, and Napoli suddenly had life.
Dries Mertens seemed to have forgotten his shooting boots, but Napoli began to pummel the Sampdoria goal as the second half dragged on, and they would break through in the 77th minute as Manolo Gabbiadini poked home from point-blank range. The comeback was well and truly on, and they’d complete it in dramatic fashion.
26-year-old defender Lorenzo Tonelli, in the starting lineup for his Napoli debut with the Azzurri missing both Raul Albiol and Kalidou Koulibaly, scored the late winner five minutes deep into added time. Tonelli had arrived in the summer from Empoli and subsequently spent the previous six-months on the bench, making the substitutes 14 times for Napoli but never seeing the field. Now, with the game winding down, he buried a selfless cutback by Ivan Strinic to earn his team all three points.
The win sees Napoli draw level with Roma on 38 points, although they have played a game more than Roma and two games more than Juventus, who sits four points adrift at the top of the Serie A table.