Serie A - Napoli edge Inter in thriller as Benitez trumps Mazzarri

Serie A, Stadio San Paolo - Napoli 4 (Higuain 9, Mertens 39, Dzemaili 41, Callejon 81) Internazionale 2 (Cambiasso 35, Nagatomo 45)

Walter Mazzarri's first return to the Stadio San Paolo proved to be an unhappy one as Rafael Benitez guided his Napoli side to a 4-2 victory against former club Internazionale in a thrilling Serie A encounter.

Mazzarri left the Partenopei in the summer after four years in charge to take over at Inter, but the Naples club ultimately proved too strong on Sunday evening, ensuring that the Italian went back to Milan empty handed.

Gonzalo Higuain opened the scoring for the home side, only for Esteban Cambiasso to equalise. Napoli responded instantly, however, with Dries Mertens and Blerim Dzemaili scoring in quick succession.

Yuto Nagatomo pulled one back before half-time but Inter were unable to stage a second-half comeback, with Ricardo Alvarez seeing red, Jose Maria Callejon making sure of the three points with a strike late on and Goran Pandev even missing a last-minute penalty against his former side.

The result means Napoli continue to pile the pressure on Juventus and Roma at the top of the table, while Benitez was able to get one over on the club that sacked him in 2010.

It was the away side, though, that created the game’s first real opening with Rodrigo Palacio latching onto Cambiasso’s long ball forward, but the attacker, unmarked, could only head over the bar.

Napoli soon fashioned their first chance and found themselves taking the lead as a result, as Nagatomo could only head Gokhan Inler’s ball into the path of Higuain, who volleyed first time into the corner of the net to score his 12th goal of the season.

The Partenopei nearly made it two just minutes later only for Lorenzo Insigne’s effort to come back off the post after Higuain had teed his team-mate up with a clever pass.

With Napoli happy to let Inter come at them after grabbing their goal, Inter soon managed to draw level through an excellent move. Fredy Guarin played the ball into the box and Palacio dummied, before Alvarez diverted the ball into the path of Cambiasso, who coolly slotted past Rafael.

The away side were unable to build on their equaliser though and soon capitulated, conceding two goals in a matter of minutes.

Mertens found the back of the net first, lashing home a fine strike that nestled into the bottom corner after being teed up by Dzemaili. And the Belgian was involved moments later as he rifled a shot at goal from the edge of the box. Samir Handanovic did well to get down low to make the save but Dzemaili was on hand to convert the rebound.

A thrilling first half was rounded off, however, with another goal from Inter as they pulled one back right before the break, despite looking to be stunned after conceding two in quick succession.

Nagatomo was the first to react after Guarin's shot was saved by Rafael, with the Inter man beating the Napoli defence, who were half asleep, to stab home the rebound.

The away side, however, were unable to threaten the comeback as the second half wore on, with the Partenopei creating the better chances – Callejon coming closest with a deflected strike from the edge of the box that whistled past the post.

Inter finally managed to fashion an opportunity, only for Rafael to save Guarin’s close-range effort following Palacio’s delivery. And their hopes of rescuing a draw were soon damaged further when Alvarez picked up a second yellow for a handball.

With just nine minutes left on the clock, Callejon killed off the game as he arrived at the far post to tap home Lorenzo Insigne’s scuffed shot that ran across the face of the goal.

There was still enough time for Pandev to miss a penalty against his former employers in injury time – with Samir Handanovic tipping wide – before the final whistle sounded to condemn Inter to their first away defeat of the season and their first loss in ten games.