Atalanta Seize Away Point as Napoli Foam With Rage

Atalanta left the San Paolo Stadium unscathed as they held Napoli onto a 2-2 tie to consolidate their third place in the Serie A table. The home Partenopei took the lead twice, but failed to capitalize and ultimately left the pitch furious at referee Piero Giacomelli, guilty in their eyes of not having sanctioned with a penalty a contact in the Bergamaschi box between Simon Kjaer and Fernando Llorente.

As Giacomelli ordered the teams to continue playing and Napoli players kept protesting, Atalanta outlined a lethal counterattack resulting in Josip Ilicic’s final equalizer. The referee’s decision indeed appeared correct, as Fernando Lorente had elbowed the Nerazzurri defender before the latter would hold him down as he fell.

That still didn’t keep the Partenopei manager Carlo Ancelotti from continuing to storm at Giacomelli, ultimately earning a red card in the endless, lively eight-minute stoppage time conceded to make up for the time lost during the controversial goal episode. Carletto could however be happy at his side’s overall performance, especially on the part of an inspired Lorenzo Insigne. Had Napoli spent less time in protesting, they could have prevented their opponents from surprising them to snatch the second goal.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta, on the other hand, added two more notches to their impressive offensive tally, now featuring 30 goals in 10 campionato games. The Bergamaschi suffered the home side pressure, held on, made the best out of the very few chances they got, and eventually left the passionate San Paolo pitch with one golden point. Atalanta’s two scorings came from a goalkeeping blunder, and a cunning counterattack. Great teams must be cynical, and Gasperini’s side have learned their lesson by now.

Atalanta’s first goal was a courtesy of Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret, who left a weak shot by Remo Freuler slide between his legs (Photo: Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)

For the match clou of Serie A Round 10, Carlo Ancelotti launched his attack to the third place in the league table by putting trust in forward Hirving Lozano, unexpectedly leaving on the bench his top scorer Dries Mertens. Gian Piero Gasperini, whose Atalanta was sitting right in that third spot, answered with a striking duo in tip top shape featuring Alejandro Gomez and Josip Ilicic. Regular starters Ruslan Malinovskiy and Timothy Castagne, as well as substitute striker Fernando Muriel were left out to catch their breath: Atalanta’s Champions League run is requiring Gasperini to familiarize with the concept of turnover.

Napoli’s start was overwhelming: Nerazzurri goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini had to intervene twice in the initial minutes to keep the score unchanged, pushing back a header challenge by Kalidou Koulibaly and a right-foot shot by Arkadiusz Milik. Atalanta replied with a free kick by Josip Ilicic which called Alex Meret to action. In the ensuing scrimmage, midfielder Allan Marques suffered a knee injury as he tried to anticipate Remo Freuler’s tap in.

Coach Ancelotti was forced to make his first change after 11 minutes only, and replaced the Brazilian midfielder with Piotr Zielinski. One minute later, Lorenzo Insigne started to steal the spotlight as he served a perfectly-timed long-range pass to José Callejon. The Spanish winger even dribbled Pierluigi Gollini, but was too slow with his finish and gave the opponent goalie the chance to recover his position and stop him.

Insigne and Callejon’s cooperation produced a much better outcome in the 16th minute, as Lorenzo Il Magnifico found again the Spaniard in a dangerous position, and Callejon’s subsequent service for Nikola Maksimovic’s header conversion left no chance to Pierluigi Gollini this time.

Defender Nikola Maksimovic gave Napoli their first lead converting with a header a cross by José Callejon

Atalanta struggled to make themselves dangerous, and their first goal was more a random occurrence than anything else. Remo Freuler’s shot in the 41st minute was far from irresistible, but Alex Meret surprisingly let it slide between his legs to gift-wrap the Nerazzurri’s equalizer.

Arkadiusz Milik tested his right-foot shooting skills early in the second half, as he made Gollini’s crossbar rattle from the free-kick spot: A prelude to his successful finish in the 71st minute, when he caught a pass by Fabian Ruiz and dribbled the keeper to put the ball in the net and bring Napoli ahead at 2-1.

Then, a different match started, totally centered on the key episode in the 84th minute. In Atalanta’s box, Fernando Llorente hit Simon Kjaer with an elbow. The Danish defender pushed his opponent down as he fell, enough to trigger the Napoletani’s prolonged protests. Josip Ilicic took advantage of the confusion to beat Alex Meret and set the score at 2-2. Chaos burst on the pitch as the Neapolitans refused to restart playing for a few minutes, even after the VAR confirmed referee Giacomelli’s initial decision.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti was sent off in the confusion. According to the manager’s version, the referee asked him “Can you help me settle things down?” as all hell was breaking loose on the playing field, to which he replied, “Don’t you have any doubt that that was a penalty?” and was allegedly waved a red card at in return.

Commenting on the controversial incident, Atalanta’s Gian Piero Gasperini eventually noted that “by looking at it from the pitch, it seemed a penalty foul,” however adding that “when I re-watched it in video, I saw a big nasty elbow by Llorente on Kjaer’s face.” Ancelotti’s version was of course different: “Elbow? Nonsense. The defender didn’t go for the ball, he didn’t even look at it. Kjaer disregarded the ball, and hit Llorente who then lost his balance.

Eight minutes of stoppage time didn’t change the score anymore. It ended with one point each, the Partenopei foaming with rage, and the Bergamaschi breathing a sigh of relief as they maintained their third position in the Serie A rank behind Juventus and Inter.                 


October 30, 2019 – Serie A 2019-2020 Round 9

SCORERS: 16′ Maksimovic (N), 41′ Freuler (A), 71′ Milik (N), 84′ Ilicic (A)

NAPOLI (4-4-2): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Luperto; Callejon, Allan (11′ Zielinski), Fabian Ruiz, Insigne; Milik (82′ Llorente), Lozano (59′ Mertens) (Ospina, Karnezis, Mario Rui, Elmas, Younes, Tonelli, Gaetano) Coach: Ancelotti
ATALANTA (3-4-1-2): Gollini; Toloi, Djimsiti (64′ Kjaer), Palomino; Hateboer, De Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Pasalic (70′ Castagne); Gomez (74′ Muriel), Ilicic (Rossi, Sportiello, Masiello, Arana, Malinovskyi, Ibañez, Barrow) Coach: Gasperini

REFEREE: Mr. Giacomelli from Trieste
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Maksimovic, Di Lorenzo, Insigne (N), Toloi, De Roon, Pasalic (A); Red Card: Ancelotti (N); Extra Time: 1st Half 2′, 2nd Half 8′