After coming off a thrilling mid-week 2-1 win in Champions League group stage vs Borussia Dortmund, Napoli travelled to San Siro (home of AC Milan), where they came away with a 2-1 win as well. The goals came from Miguel Britos and Gonzalo Higuian. The game itself, from a Napoli perspective, was probably their worst one out of the five competitive matches they played this season. This was the first match Napoli was outshot, had less possession and was out tackled (even though they had less possession).
- Pepe Reina: There is not many words that could describe Reina performance than, Man of the Match! He made very big saves; his biggest one was versus Mario Balotelli from the penalty spot. Not only was the save important to keep the game 2-0, it was the first time Balotelli was denied from a penalty shot in 27 attempts (the streak is over http://hasbalotellimissedapenalty.com/). In the end, Reina did not get the clean sheet, which he deserved (he was beaten by a great curling shot from no one other than Balotelli).
- First 15 minutes of match: The Napoli squad came out of the gate on a high. They could of easily been in front by two or three goals if finishing was there (Valon Behrami!). Unfortunately, the pace and offense threat was less and less apparent as the game moved along.
- Set-Piece Goal: The first goal was off a set-piece that was swung into the box by Jose Callejon, which Raul Albiol headed back across to an open Britos, who finished the play by heading the ball intp into an open net.
- Mario Balotelli : Anyone watching the game should of realized that it was Napoli vs Balotelli. He was in on every play good or bad. He had 12 attempts at goal, one goal, 2 yellow cards and a missed penalty. In the end, I could of put his name in all three sections of the review.
- Honorable Mentions: Gonzalo Higuian, Giandomenico Mesto
- Losing Clean Sheet: AS mentioned above, Reina deserved the clean sheet for his performance. Napoli defending on the goal they allowed was awful. Allowed way to much space and time to AC Milan to find the back of the net.
- Blerim Dzemaili/Valon Behrami: The holding midfield for Napoli had their worst outing of the season. Dzemaili on the defensive side missed tackles, slow to react; whereas on the offensive side was barely a threat and often too fancy. As for Behrami, was not his best perfomance either with only one interception and one tackle won. On the goal conceeded, one them (there were 3 holding midfield on the field – Gohkan Inler was subbed on), should of been pressing Balotelli on top of the box.
- Luca Banti: The referring of this match was below par for both sides. The actual penalty awarded to Balotelli was unfair (he was barely touched), whereas the trip inside the box from Mesto on Balotelli, in my opinion was an actual one. The other call where he was lenient was to Britos. Britos received a yellow card for a late, ugly, from behind challenge on Balotelli, to me it should of been a straight red.
- Napoli Finishing: As mentioned in the “Good”, Napoli started the match very well. However their finish touch was horrible. In the opening minute of play, Marek Hamsik should of had a goal or at least slipped it over to Higuian for a tap in. Then in the 4th minute, Lorenzo Insigne provided a perfect ball to Behrami who sent the ball way over the ball. One minute later, Higuain intercepts a ball but the he finishes the play with a strike off target.
- Napoli Team Stats: As mentioned in the prelude, Napoli was outperformed on many levels. For Napoli 3 shots on target, had 44% of possession, 2 corners, 66% tackle success vs. AC Milan had 8 shots, 56% possession, 8 corners and 76% tackle success. However in the end the scoreline, which was in favour for Napoli and three points is what counts!
In the end, Napoli won, even though in unconvincing fashion. The next game is mid-week, on Wednesday at home versus a very weak side, Sassuolo (who were beaten 7-0 by Inter on the weekend). I think we will see a big turnover in the starting 11 (maybe Napoli fans will see for the first time Duvan Zapata).
On a side note: Christian Maggio will be missing time due to a knee injury (very likely missing clash versus Arsenal).
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