Inter vs Napoli 3-2: Nerazzurri Win Dramatic Battle of Nerves

After Milan’s unexpected setback in Florence, Inter vs Napoli could either result in the visitors gaining a solitary lead in the Serie A table or in Simone Inzaghi’s side closing their gap with the leading duo.

The big match at the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium certified that Inter are back in the Scudetto race as they overcame the Partenopei in a dramatic fashion, coming on top of a 3-2 thriller that made for a great commercial of what is turning out to be one of the most balanced editions of the Italian top-flight in many years.  

Despite going down in the early stages of the game, Inter kept their cool and benefited of a sumptuous performance on the part of Lautaro Martinez to turn the tables and build a two-goal cushion in the second half.

Napoli, on the other hand, missed the support from Lorenzo Insigne and Hirving Lozano on the front line while Victor Osimhen had to leave the pitch early into the second period due to a head injury. Substitute Dries Mertens pulled one back for the Azzurri who kept attacking until the end but ultimately had to concede their first Serie A loss of the season.

Inter Come from Behind with Calhanoglu and Perisic

At first glance, a neutral spectator might have though he was looking at the wrong game. Where were Inter’s black-and-blue jersey and Napoli’s blue one? Inter showed up in their flickering second kit while Napoli donned a white outfit dedicated to Maradona. As good as the Partenopei‘s intent might have been, the visual effect was not exactly the best – at least in our view.

The first initiative came from Inter: on six minutes, Lautaro bested Kalidou Koulibaly from a cross but his headed effort crashed into the San Siro stands.

Inter kept pushing from the sides, with Matteo Darmian and Ivan Perisic putting the Partenopei defense under pressure. But then, in a perfect counter-attacking fashion, Napoli drew first blood as Piotr Zielinski received the ball from Lorenzo Insigne and whipped it into the top right corner of Inter’s goal.

The Nerazzurri protested over an alleged foul on Nicolò Barella made by the Polish midfielder but referee Paolo Valeri had waved play on. However, Inter’s next protests a few minutes later had a better outcome as the VAR caught Koulibaly deflecting a shot with his hand in the box, prompting a penalty in favor of Simone Inzaghi’s side. 

From the spot, Hakan Calhanoglu converted his second penalty in a row after shocking his former club Milan in the derby with a perfect conclusion that sent David Ospina to the opposite direction.

The match at the San Siro continued at a dazzling pace and the referee had to work hard to keep both sides’ nerves at bay. Victor Osimhen, Hakan Calhanoglu and both Napoli’s center backs all saw yellow, together with Inter coach Inzaghi.

Towards the end of the first half, the Nerazzurri‘s pressure bore fruit. First, Giovanni Di Lorenzo took a big risk with a sloppy pass that triggered Barella’s shot from a long distance, which was punched away not without some difficulties by Ospina. The Colombian keeper couldn’t do anything, however, when Perisic headed home a corner kick from Calhanoglu on 43 minutes, sending the Nerazzurri to the break with a one-goal lead. 

Osimhen Injury Heralds Napoli’s First Defeat

The second half opened with a bad piece of news for Napoli, who lost Osimhen due to a horrific aerial collision with Milan Skriniar. Andrea Petagna was sent in by Spaletti to replace the Nigerian hitman.

It was a bad omen that heralded Napoli’s collapse, which took the form of Inter’s third goal on 60 minutes. The Nerazzurri produced themselves in a brilliant ripartenza as Correa could progress all along the pitch with very little opposition. From El Tucu‘s service, Lautaro Martinez beat Ospina with a clinical right-foot conclusion.

There were changes from both sides as Edin Dzeko and Arturo Vidal made their entrance, soon followed by Roberto Gagliardini and Federico Dimarco for the Nerazzurri. On the Neapolitan side, Spalletti substituted the disappointing Lozano and Insigne with Dries Mertens.

Mertens turned out to be Spalletti’s trump card as the pocket-sized winger reopened the game with a spectacular curl, the ball leaping past Samir Handanovic to give the Azzurri a new hope. However, the Belgian also squandered a major chance to equalize well into stoppage time, wasting a monumental cross from Frank Anguissa with a conclusion from point-blank range that sailed above the bar.

Before that, it had been up to Handanovic to preserve Inter’s lead with a super save from a Mario Rui header. The Nerazzurri held to their one-goal lead to inflict Spalletti’s troops their first campaign loss of the season but had to suffer until the end to grab the three points on offer. It was a spectacular game and

What’s Next for Inter and Napoli

Inter are back in the race for the Italian title but have no time to rest on their laurels. This coming Wednesday, they receive Shakhtar Donetsk at the San Siro in a game that will say much about their chances to make it to the Champions League knockout stage.

Napoli will fly to Moscow also on Wednesday to face Spartak in another key match for their Europa League qualification hopes. It will be interesting to see how their first league loss reflects on their European performances.   



November 21, 2021 – Serie A 2021-2022 Round 13

SCORERS: 17′ Zielinski (N), 25′ Calhanoglu (I, pen.), 43′ Perisic (I), 60′ Lautaro Martinez (I), 78′ Mertens (N)

INTER (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, Ranocchia, Bastoni; Darmian, Barella (75′ Dimarco), Brozovic, Calhanoglu (62′ Vidal), Perisic (88′ Satriano); Lautaro Martinez (75′ Gagliardini), Correa (62′ Dzeko) (Cordaz, Radu, Dumfries, Vecino, Kolarov, Sensi, D’Ambrosio) Coach: S. Inzaghi
NAPOLI (4-3-3): Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Koulibaly, Mario Rui; Anguissa, Fabian Ruiz, Zielinski; Lozano (75′ Elmas), Osimhen (55′ Petagna), Insigne (75′ Mertens) (Meret, Marfella, Malcuit, Juan Jesus, Ghoulam, Lobotka) Coach: Spalletti

REFEREE: Mr. Valeri from Rome
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Inzaghi, Calhanoglu, Vidal, Handanovic, Dzeko (I), Osimhen, Koulibaly, Rrahmani (N); Added Time: 1st Half: 1′, 2nd Half: 8′