Napoli have secured UEFA Champions League football for next season after Edinson Cavani inspired them to a 3-1 win over Inter on Sunday.
The Uruguayan star had Stadio San Paolo rocking after just three minutes before a Ricky Alvarez spot-kick levelled the score, but Cavani hammered home a penalty of his own before completing a hat-trick in the second-half to confirm at least a third-place finish for Napoli.
Both managers made three changes to their teams as Edinson Cavani, Valon Behrami and Alessandro Gamberini returned for the hosts, while Christian Chivu, Fredy Guarin and Marco Benassi came in for injury-ravaged Inter.
After Juventus clinched the title on Sunday, Napoli only had second place to fight for and they did not look short of motivation as Goran Pandev played a delightful through-ball between Andrea Ranocchia and Chivu for Cavani who smashed a shot past Samir Handanovic for a third-minute lead.
Referee Antonio Giannoccaro offered Inter a way back into the match in the 23rd minute as he awarded the visitors a penalty after Alvarez went down under pressure from Camilo Zuniga, and the Argentine found the net from 12 yards, despite Morgan De Sanctis’ best efforts low to his left.
However, just under 10 minutes later Jonathan collided with Zuniga off the ball inside the area and the referee pointed to the penalty spot for the second time, allowing Cavani to step up and dispatch the kick for his 100th goal for Napoli.
Blerim Dzemaili, Marek Hamsik and Cavani all had good chances before the end of the first half, but Handanovic kept the score to a minimum as Napoli went into half-time with a deserved 2-1 lead.
The second half started in a similar fashion to how the first finished as Napoli pressed forward in search of a third goal, but neither Hamsik or Pandev could capitalise on good chances before Ranocchia missed two efforts of his own at the other end.
Inter looked to get back into the game and had chances, but a worried Ranocchia thought he had given away a spot-kick as he blatantly pushed over Cavani inside the penalty area, but luckily for the Italian he escaped any sanction as the referee brought play back for a previous foul by Guarin.
Just past the hour mark, Cavani almost scored a third after Pandev whipped a low cross into the six-yard box and the Uruguayan ran across Juan to flick the ball towards the goal, but he could only direct the ball wide.
However, Cavani did have his hat-trick by the 78th minute as he picked out Pandev to his left before continuing his run and knocking in the Macedonian’s cross at the far post.
Cavani had been everywhere throughout the match as he even helped with defensive work, but he was clearly intent on scoring as many goals as possible and he flashed another shot wide of Handanovic’s left post in the final 10 minutes, while Inter failed to produce a fight back, ensuring Napoli a place in the Champions League next season.