A bitter and disappointing night in Rotterdam for Napoli, which bid an early farewell to their Champions League season. The Partenopei’s tenuous qualification chances vanished as soon as news about Shakhtar leading 2-0 over Manchester City spread. As a victory by the Ukrainians would have automatically pushed them out of the knockout phase, Maurizio Sarri’s squad slacked off and conceded Feyenoord their only win in their meager European campaign.
Feyenoord won 2-1 thanks to a goal by defender Jeremiah St. Juste during extra time, after Nicolai Jorgensen had equalised Piotr Zielinksi’s lightning-quik lead. The Dutch left the European stage with style, giving their supporters an occasion to celebrate despite playing the last ten minutes with one man less. For Sarri and his blue-jersey boys, the next stop is the Europa League, but a more immediate concern is their second defeat in a row – something unthinkable only a few weeks ago.
Indeed, a tight match schedule, and a limited number of alternatives to the first-choice lineup are starting to take their toll on Napoli’s performances. Tonight, Sarri left a worn-out Jorginho on the bench, and Lorenzo Insigne was also ruled out of the match due to a recurring pubalgia.
Amadou Diawara substituted the Brazilian-Italian playmaker, whereas Piotr Zielinki took a winger position to replace Lorenzo Il Magnifico.
Among the Dutch ranks, coach Giovanni Van Bronckhorst also proposed a couple of interesting choices, leaving space to goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer instead of regular Brad Jones, and to 18-year-old defender Tyrell Malacia on the left side – someone the Dutchies will need to keep an eye for, as they set to rebuild a national squad which failed to qualify for the next World Cup (…does this sound familiar?)
The game itself lasted more or less 27 minutes, the time it took for the first news from the Donetsk Arena to begin spreading. Napoli had started off on the right foot, with Zielinski finalizing a free kick by Diawara just one minute and a half into the match. The gap could increase in at least two occasions, but first Vermeer stopped an offense by Dries Mertens, then defender Renato Tapia cleared the ball out of the goal line from a shot by José Callejon.
With Shakhtar leading 2-0, Nicolai Jorgensen’s head equaliser, with the Dane surprising Raul Albiol and Elsaid Hysaj, didn’t make the Partenopei tear their hair out. Maurizio Sarri used most of the second half to put some minutes into his second choices’ legs – Mirko Rog, Adam Ounas and Mario Rui (to whom tonight he preferred seasoned Christian Maggio). Considering his need to find new solutions, he could have risked deploying some of them earlier in the match, or even in the starting lineup.
Jeremiah St. Juste’s goal at the 91st minute, with a careless Raul Albiol once again guilty, only served the purpose of giving the home supporters a reason to celebrate, and Feyenoord the chance to cancel the “zero” from their point tally.
December 6, 2017 – Champions League 2017-18 Group F
SCORERS: 2’ Zielinski (N), 33’ Jorgensen (F), 91’ St. Juste (F)
|FEYENOORD (4-3-3): Vermeer; Nieuwkoop (76′ St. Juste), van Beek, Tapia, Malacia; Amrabat, Toornstra, Vilhena; Berghuis (72′ Larsson), Jorgensen, Boetius (Jones, Larsson, Basacikoglu, Diks, Kramer, Hansson) Coach: van Bronckhorst|
|NAPOLI (4-3-3): Reina; Maggio (64′ Mario Rui), Albiol, Koulibaly, Hysaj; Allan (60′ Rog), Diawara, Hamsik; Callejon (74′ Ounas), Mertens, Zielinski (Sepe, Chiriches, Jorginho, Giaccherini) Coach: Sarri|
REFEREE: Oliver (England)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Mertens (N), St. Juste (F); Red Card: Vilhena (F)
Feature Photo: © Pro Shots