Donnarumma Drives Napoli Title Hopes Away

A phenomenal save by Gianluigi Donnarumma in the 92nd minute put a damper on Napoli’s residual Scudetto hopes, as the Partenopei were held onto a goalless draw by Milan in San Siro, thus seeing their gap with Juventus widening to six points. The 19-year-old goalie found the best way to celebrate his 100th Serie A cap, but his late exploit may cost much to the club of his hometown Napoli.

Donnarumma was born and raised in the Neapolitan suburb of Castellammare di Stabia, before moving to Milan to join the Rossoneri youth club, and eventually making his way up to the first squad. Not easy to explain to his fellow citizens that yesterday he was just “doing his job” – and indeed, Donnarumma had to post an apology on Facebook, after a video in which he apparently mocked Napoli had prompted a flood of insults from Neapolitans supporters.

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Guest of Honors in San Siro: Rossoneri legends Pietro Paolo Virdis and Ruud Gullit, together with Milan CEO Davide Fassone (Photo: http://www.acmilan.com)

The Nazionale prospect made the difference at the end of a hard-fought match with few scoring chances on both sides. With just one extra time minute to go, Lorenzo Insigne (another native Neapolitan, but this one wearing the right blue jersey…) offered a golden chance to Arkadiusz Milik, with a flank play that put the Pole right in front of Donnarumma.

But Gigio stretched to his left to miraculously deflect Milik’s sure hit, and kept the score even. Probably the best seasonal save for the much-discussed talent, whose performances had not always lived up to his hype in this Serie A 2017-18.

Before the last-minute shiver for the Rossoneri, Milan-Napoli had offered little emotions, the clearest one being a celebration for Ruud Gullit’s comeback to San Siro to be inducted into the Italian football Hall of Fame, together with other Milan legend Pietro Paolo Virdis.

The Black Tulip, after all, knows a thing or two about how to breach into Napoli’s defense, yet his presence on the stands didn’t serve as inspiration to Milan’s attacking lines – neither Nikola Kalinic, nor his late substitute André Silva.

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Milan-Napoli was a hard-fought game, but didn’t abund in scoring chances (Photo: http://www.acmilan.com)

The best scoring chance for the Devils came after just three minutes, with Giacomo Bonaventura trying to surprise Pepe Reina with a shot from afar, that forced Napoli’s goalie to get his gloves dirty early. For Napoli, two shots by Dries Mertens in the 14th minutes, and then by Lorenzo Insigne with just ten minutes to go, gave Donnarumma the chance to warm up before his super-save during injury time.

Gennaro Gattuso’s ship stayed afloat despite the absences from his regular center backs – Alessio Romagnoli, and Leonardo Bonucci – who were substituted by Mateo Musacchio and Cristian Zapata, the latter also inheriting the captains’ band from the former Juventus player. Still, Milan caught their third draw in a row, failing to recover any point to their direct contenders for a Champions League spot.

With just six games left, and an 8-point gap with the fourth position, participating to the top European competition next year seems to be destined to remain a mirage for president Yonghong Li’s club.

On the other hand, Napoli also have little to be happy about. With Juventus trashing Sampdoria 3-0 later in the afternoon, the Partenopei saw their dream to interrupt the Zebre’s Scudetto streak starting to fade. Napoli will face Juventus next Sunday at the Allianz Stadium for a decisive showdown, in a desperate attempt to revive their chances.

But Maurizio Sarri’s once-invincible troops are tired. Napoli have scrambled together only nine points in the last six matches – two of which only came thanks to a providential late goal by Amadou Diawara, last week against Chievo. The Azzurri’s unchangeable starting lineup features many players who don’t seem to have it anymore this season, a worn out Dries Mertens being the clearest example. The panchina corta (“short bench”) is fatally starting to take its toll.

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Dries Mertens, once again impalpable, is the symbol of a team that seem to have lost their spark…

 

MATCH REPORT

April 15, 2018 – Serie A 2017-18 Round 32
MILAN-NAPOLI 0-0

Logo_Milan_2017 MILAN (4-3-3): G. Donnarumma; Calabria, Musacchio, Zapata, Rodriguez; Kessie, Biglia, Bonaventura (79’ Locatelli); Suso, Kalinic (71’ André Silva), Calhanoglu (Storari, A. Donnarumma, Abate, Antonelli, Gomez, Mauri, Montolivo, Borini, Cutrone) Coach: Gattuso
Logo_Napoli_2017 NAPOLI (4-3-3): Reina; Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Hysaj; Allan (87’ Rog), Jorginho, Hamsik (66’ Zielinski); Callejon, Mertens (66′ Milik), Insigne (Rafael, Sepe, Milic, Tonelli, Chiriches, Machach, Ounas, Diawara) Coach: Sarri

REFEREE: Mr. Banti from Livorno
NOTES: Attendance: 65786; Yellow Cards: Zapata, Calhanoglu (M), Hysaj, Koulibaly (N)

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