Serie A - Napoli title hopes dealt hammer blow

Sat, 23 Apr 16:12:00 2011

Palermo dealt Napoli's Serie A title hopes a hammer blow as they came from behind to win 2-1 in a pulsating game at the Stadio Renzo Barbera

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The win for Delio Rossi's side means Napoli will need a miracle to overhaul AC Milan at the summit of Serie A and are also in danger of missing out on Champions League qualification altogether.

Federico Balzaretti's thundering volley and Cesare Bovo's penalty meant Palermo are just four points from European football next season.

It was a dream start for the side from Naples as Edinson Cavani, under the watchful eye of a scouting party from Manchester City, stroked home a second minute penalty to settle any early nerves.

But far from serve to quell Palermo it only served to galvanise them they should have been level 10 minutes later.

The impressive Ezequiel Munoz won a header from a corner and saw the ball fall to Bovo just two yards out with the goalkeeper nowhere.

But Bovo only managed to scoop the ball up and over the bar leaving his team mates with their heads in their hands.

Cavani almost put Napoli 2-0 up but his wicked volley from 25 yards did not quite dip enough.

The home side were level with seven minutes to go in the half.

Javier Pastore's cross from the right was missed by everyone but met by Balzaretti's bullet volley that squirmed under the body of Morgan De Sanctis.

And if that was not enough drama Palermo took the lead on the stroke of half-time.

Bovo converting a penalty after Christian Maggio was brought down.

The second half was a relentless tussle as Napoli went all out on the attack with a 3-3-4 formation while Palermo were happy to hit them on the break.

Abel Hernandez had numerous chances to put the game behind Napoli but was found wanting when the moment required a cool head.

And when chances fell Napoli's way their strikers, especially Cristiano Lucarelli, could not convert the opportunity that would have kept up the pressure on AC Milan at the top.

Napoli will now require the leaders to slip up and go unbeaten themselves until the end of the season.

Palermo can still dream of European football and on this evidence are a good bet to complete that task.

Mark Applin / Eurosport

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