“Respect those who love this shirt and pay you!” – Curva A
That is what was written outside the San Paolo Stadium on Saturday night. The Napoli Ultras were showing their anger and frustration as their beloved squad had failed to register a single win in their last four games in all competitions.
Tonight, it was supposed to be all about redeeming those past failures and try to rise from the ashes and win a match to lift the spirits just before the international break. However, the Partenopei faced a relentless opposition on the part of Genoa. Napoli huffed and puffed but never really threatened the goal of Genoa’s Romanian goalkeeper Andrei Radu, except on a couple of occasions. The southern-based team played without genuinely believing that a goal was on the horizon.
The Grifone, on the other hand, provided an excellent display of defensive compactness in the back, and a few threatening chances that could have made Napoli’s poor run of form even worse. The Rossoblu were just one place above the drop zone before the match and they were also desperately looking for a morale-boosting victory. But Thiago Motta’s men would have taken a draw at the San Paolo stadium any day of the week and twice on Sunday, hoping to build on that performance in a fortnight’s time after the international break.
Both sides entered the match with minor changes in their lineups from their previous endeavors. Napoli made two substitutions to the lineup that started against Red Bull Salzburg on Tuesday, fielding David Ospina instead of Alex Meret in goal, and Elsaid Hysaj in place of Mario Rui, who was not fit enough to start the match. Genoa made three changes as Riccardo Saponara (injured), Christian Kouamé (international duty) and Paolo Ghiglione (tactical decision) made way for Francesco Cassata, Lukas Lerager and Marko Pajac. Goran Pandev was captaining the Rossoblu against his former team Napoli, whose colors he spent three years defending.
Napoli got off to a perfect start, or so they thought. Lorenzo Insigne scored in the second minute from a ball rebounding from one of the Genoa defenders. The little Italian magician went off to celebrate, only for referee Gianpaolo Calvarese to rightfully halt his joy and disallow the goal after it turned out that Hirving Lozano was offside when he was fed the ball by Dries Mertens. Napoli fans thought they could squeeze the right response from their players, but they were soon forced to return to reality. After the disallowed goal, Genoa started to ease in the match, slowly gaining possession and denying their opposition from having the ball.
As time passed, the nerves of the Partenopei started to show as they failed to threaten again Radu’s goal. Even when they did, the Romanian was confident enough to absorb the pressure by the Neapolitans. The Rossoblu were playing with wits and showing their footballing intelligence. Their defense was able to deny Napoli from clear-cut scoring chances, only limiting them to half-ones that never really looked to alter the Liguria side’s plan of keeping a clean sheet in the first half.
The second half started a bit more energetic. Genoa captain Goran Pandev, playing under the guidance of his former Inter teammate Thiago Motta, looked like a version of himself from 2010 – calm, smart, linking up with his teammates, dictating the play and controlling the tempo of the match. His Nerazzurri version would have been extremely proud of his performance tonight, keeping in mind that the North-Macedonian is 36 years old!
Another Genoa good performer was Andrea Pinamonti. The on-loan striker from Inter who impressed this summer at the U-20 World Cup with the Italian national team had a chance or two that could’ve been used better to open the scoring for his team.
In the 66th minute, Carlo Ancelotti decided to take off his captain Lorenzo Insigne and put on Elif Elmas in his place. The Italian went off quickly under the jeers and boos from the crowd. It was unclear whether they were expressing discontent at the player for his poor performance, or at the manager for substituting a fan’s favorite.
Except for a world-class off-the-line clearance by Kalidou Koulibaly to keep David Ospina’s sheet clean, and a card-showing spree by referee Gianpaolo Calvarese for every other challenge, the match was mostly dull and full of unfulfilled potential by both sides. In the 87th minute, Napoli’s most dangerous chance came when Elmas headed a cross coming from Giovanni Di Lorenzo, only for goalie Radu to save it. Goal-line technology later showed in replays that only a few millimeters of the ball were missing for it to be fully past the line.
Calvarese added on five minutes as extra time, but it looked like Napoli wouldn’t be able to find a breakthrough even had he added 50 more. As the final whistle came, Genoa could rejoice with having come out of the San Paolo Stadium with a precious point in view of their battle for survival.
Napoli, on the other hand, were left star-struck under the pouring rain, moaning about the lost opportunities and how the match could have been handled differently. They all stood still in the center of the pitch, thinking about the shirt they represent, and how they seemed to have lost respect from their fans even before kicking the ball off tonight.
October 30, 2019 – Serie A 2019-2020 Round 12
|NAPOLI (4-4-2): Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Hysaj (84′ Luperto); Callejon (60′ Llorente), Ruiz, Zielinski, Insigne (66′ Elmas), Lozano, Mertens (Meret, Karnezis, Tonelli, Mario Rui, Gaetano, Younes) Coach: Ancelotti|
|GENOA (4-3-1-2): Radu; Ankersen, Zapata, Romero, Pajac; Schone, Lerager, Agudelo (95′ Ghiglione); Cassata (88′ Radovanovic); Pandev (80′ Cleonise), Pinamonti (Marchetti, Jandrei, Barreca, Goldaniga, El Yamiq, Biraschi, Jagiello, Gumus, Sanabria) Coach: Thiago Motta|
REFEREE: Mr. Calvarese from Teramo
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Llorente (N), Cassata, Schone, Cleonise, Lerager (G); Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 5′