2015/2016 Italian Serie A
  • Gonzalo Higuaín (69' PEN)
  • Raffaele Bianco (56')

Gonzalo Higuain's penalty enough to keep Napoli on top with win over Carpi

Napoli squeezed past 10-man Carpi thanks only to a Gonzalo Higuain penalty at the Stadio San Paolo and remain two points clear of Juventus ahead of next weekend's Serie A title clash in Turin.

It proved to be a difficult match against 18th-placed Carpi in Naples and Maurizio Sarri's league leaders could have been usurped by Juve, victorious at Frosinone on Sunday, had Higuain not converted a 69th-minute spot-kick.

The 1-0 victory was achieved, however, and Napoli now have the opportunity to pull five points clear in the Scudetto race if they can emerge triumphant from Saturday's meeting with Juve.

After losing Raffaele Bianco to a red card midway through the second half, Carpi never recovered.

With the rival clubs pitted against relegation fodder in their respective warm-ups for the Turin showdown, Napoli perhaps enjoyed the rub of the green when the fixtures were scheduled in the summer

A home stand against Carpi almost guaranteed the Azzurri faithful would enjoy a glut of goals - but it was not to be.

Higuain was found causing trouble in the early exchanges, the Argentinian fizzing Elseid Hysaj's pass beyond a post before Vid Belec took the ball off his feet following a clever one-two with Jose Callejon.

The winger headed over the bar in the 26th minute and Carpi enjoyed their first attempt soon after, Kevin Lasagna nodding the ball just wide at the end of a swift counter-attack.

Napoli should have taken the lead heading into the break but Lorenzo Insigne shaved paint off a post with a volley from Marek Hamsik's assist.

The toil continued when play resumed and it was not until the 56th minute that Napoli were boosted by an expulsion from the opposing team.

Bianco's dismissal for a foul on Insigne left a hole in the Carpi midfield but the Azzurri seemed unable to exploit their advantage.

Indeed they needed a penalty - issued moments after Juve took the lead at Frosinone - to get past Carpi.

Fabio Daprela's foul on Kalidou Koulibaly gave Higuain the opportunity to grab his 24th league goal of the season and he took it without a moment's hesitation.

The former Real Madrid striker took it upon himself to try and deliver a second goal to kill the game off but struggled to do so, with Belec thwarting him at the end of a fine dribbling run as the game entered its final 10 minutes.

Lasagna sent a shock wave through the already-nervous Napoli defence when driving a low sighter towards Jose Reina but Carpi did not quite have the wherewithal or experience to peg their hosts back as time ticked away.