Napoli moved seven points clear at the top of Serie A after Sunday’s 2-0 win at 10-man Sampdoria, who paid tribute to deceased greats Gianluca Vialli and Sinisa Mihajlovic.
Victor Osimhen poked Napoli ahead in the 19th minute before Eljif Elmas sealed the points with a perfectly-place penalty with eight minutes remaining at a soaking Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa.
The win extend Napoli’s lead on Juventus, winners over Udinese on Saturday who travel to Naples on Friday, and AC Milan who are a further point back in third ahead of their home match with Roma later on Sunday.
After netting his 10th league goal of the season, Nigeria foward Osimhen was also the victim of a brutal foul from Tomas Rincon, who was sent off in the 38th minute for chopping the 24-year-old down as he charged towards goal.
Luciano Spalletti’s side bounced back from their defeat at Inter Milan on Wednesday and dampened an emotional evening for Sampdoria whose fans said goodbye to two of their most popular former players.
Vialli’s death to pancreatic cancer on Friday at the age of 58 was particularly painful for supporters as the former Italy forward is one of Sampdoria’s all-time greats and a key figure in their only league title triumph in 1991.
Mihajlovic, who played for Sampdoria in the mid-1990s and later managed the club, succumbed to leukemia last month and Sunday’s match was their first home fixture since he passed away.
The Samp players warmed up for the match in shirts bearing Vialli’s number nine, while fans in the stands chanted both players’ names as a wreath was laid in their honour by visibly moved coach Dejan Stankovic.
A giant banner hung in the stands for Vialli read “Striker. Champion. Legend.” while another said “Thanks to you we know that nothing is impossible”.
However Serie A survival is beginning to look increasingly difficult as Sampdoria are 18th, six points behind Spezia who sit just outside the relegation zone and drew 0-0 with Lecce in similarly wet conditions.
The hosts were saved by goalkeeper Emil Audero in the sixth minute when he brilliantly kept out Matteo Politano’s penalty, but Osimhen put the away side ahead and from there Napoli took firm control.
Sampdoria were then reduced to 10 and from that point sat back in the hope of nicking one on the counter until Elmas made sure of the win.