Novara 1-1 Napoli: Radovanovic,Dzemaili great-strike
Blerim Dzemaili’s equaliser six minutes from time earned Napoli a 1-1 draw with Serie A strugglers Novara at Stadio Silvio Piola.
Both sides went into the game desperate for three points, with Novara stranded in the relegation zone and fifth-place Napoli looking to re-ignite their league campaign having qualified for the Champions League last 16.
Ivan Radovanovic opened the scoring in spectacular fashion with 20 minutes remaining as the hosts went in search of an unlikely win but Dzemaili’s late leveller ensured a draw.
A scrappy opening 10 minutes saw neither side create a chance of note until Paolo Cannavaro’s weak headed clearance fell to Francesco Marianini, who did well to shrug off a challenge and lay off to Marco Rigoni, whose powerful 25-yard shot forced a good stop from Napoli keeper Morgan De Sanctis.
Napoli began to dictate the pace of play as half-time approached and Christian Maggio planted his header inches wide from Andrea Dossena’s cross, before Maggio saw his well-struck shot from distance saved by Samir Ujkani.
Novara started the second half the stronger side and Raffaele Rubino sent a glancing header just wide before Radovanovic fired in a low cross-cum-shot which Andrea Mazzarani re-directed narrowly over the bar.
And the home side took the lead when Rubino touched a free-kick short to Radovanovic and the Serbian lashed home an unstoppable shot from 30 yards.
Napoli secured qualification to the Champions League knockout stages thanks to a 2-0 win over Villarreal on Wednesday and Walter Mazzarri's side looked to be paying the price for the effort with a sluggish performance in Novara.
But, to their credit, they continued to plug away and drew level when the impressive Ezequiel Lavezzi got to the by-line and cut a cross back which Dzemaili fired home.
That put the wind in their sails and Lavezzi shot at Ujkani in the dying minutes before Pandev had a last-ditch penalty appeal waved away after a challenge by the Novara keeper.
George Scott / Eurosport
NOVARA: Ujkani, Centuriono, Ludi, Dellafiore, Gemiti, Morganella, Radovanovic, Rigoni, Marianini, Rubino, Mazzarani... Subs: Porcaro, Fontana, Pesce, Morimoto, Jeda, Granoche, Labrin
NAPOLI: De Sanctis, Cannavaro, Aronica, Campagnaro, Dzemaili, Hamsik, Dossena, Maggio, Cavani, Lavezzi, Pandev... Subs: Mascara, Rosati, Zuniga, Gargano, Inler, Fideleff, Fernandez