Napoli labour to Cesena victory

Rome: Napoli beat spirited 10-man Cesena 3-1 to open the new Serie A season with an at times laboured victory.

The three points yesterday will have helped the southerners` confidence ahead of their trip to England in midweek to face Manchester City in the Champions League but this was a far from convincing performance.

Ezequiel Lavezzi gave them an early lead before Roberto Guana equalised only for Hugo Campagnaro to snatch a winner before Marek Hamsik put the icing on the cake late on.

Goalscorer Lavezzi was reluctant to say how this win would set them up for the Manchester City clash.

"We dont know yet, we`ve started well, it was important to win today and luckily we did so," he said.

"Every match is different, they`re played differently, this win is good for our confidence to go there and play our match."

Cesena had centre-back Yohan Benalouane sent off early in the second period for two bookings, the second a careless handball.

But despite playing 38 minutes with a numerical advantage, Walter Mazzarri`s team struggled to ram home their dominance.

"It wasn`t easy to win here at Cesena, they played well, put us under pressure and put us in difficulty," he said.

"They`ve bought some good players such as (Adrian) Mutu and (Andrea) Candreva, they`re a good team that could do well."

Mazzarri left out Hamsik from the starting line-up but explained that was with City in mind.

"Today it was his turn to sit out, he was the only one who played two international games and if I`d played him from the start here I would probably have had to leave him out in Manchester," Mazzarri told reporters.

Having made a lot of signings in the summer there is a lot of hope surrounding Cesena this season and they started with fire in their bellies.

Marquee signing Mutu sent over an early corner that Benalouane headed just wide.

But a momentary lack of concentration saw them punished after just three minutes as Lavezzi was left alone behind the backline to collect a long throw from Campagnaro and volley past Nicola Ravaglia at his near post.

With Candreva pulling the strings, Cesena saw a lot of the ball and created a lot of threatening moments wit hout actually testing Napoli goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis.

The visitors almost had a second on 21 minutes when Andrea Dossena`s deep cross from the left found Christian Maggio at the back stick but his volley flashed past the far post.

Gianluca Comotto then headed wide from a corner for the hosts.

Cesena got the equaliser they deserved on 24 minutes as Brazilian Eder broke down the right and crossed for Guana to nip in front of his marker and prod home across De Sanctis. Napoli almost went back in front on 36 minutes after a great one-two from Lavezzi and Mario Santana but the Argentine forward directed his shot wide of post.

Up the other end Candreva on the volley brought a smart parry from De Sanctis.

The game changed early in the second half when Benalouane picked up two yellow cards in quick succession leaving the hosts a man down.

Mazzarri was quick to react, bringing on forwards Hamsik and Goran Pandev and the move reaped immediate dividends as Hamsik crossed for Campagnaro to slide the ball home at the back post.

Napoli stepped up the pressure and Ravaglia had to make a fine save to deny Edinson Cavani.

Pandev should have eased the visitors` nerves five minutes from time but somehow hit the bar with an open goal to aim at after fine work from Hamsik.

But the Slovakian showed his Macedonian colleague how it was done a couple of minutes later, lashing home a left-footer from the edge of the box.

Bureau Report

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