Olivier Giroud turned home Davide Calabria’s wayward mid-range effort to hand Milan a mammoth 1-0 win at Napoli on Sunday night. The Partenopei headed into this matchday as the Serie A leaders, but after tonight’s defeat, they have slid to third in the standings.
Napoli thought last weekend’s last-gasp 2-1 victory at Lazio could have changed the complexity of the Scudetto run-in. Head coach Luciano Spalletti even emphasised his side’s high spirits in the build-up to Sunday’s top-table six-pointer, insisting he has a ‘good feeling’ after winning at Olimpico.
But Napoli’s hopes of lifting their first Serie A title since the 1989/90 season took another hit as Milan outperformed them in their own backyard. Spalletti’s men snapped under pressure again, failing to live up to expectations when it mattered most, which has often been the case with this team over the past few years.
Before losing their last two Serie A meetings with Milan at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, Napoli had not suffered back-to-back league defeats to the Rossoneri at home for 30 years. The Partenopei could have barely picked a worse moment to falter, as they now face an uphill task to regain the lead at the summit.
Often accused of lacking character and winning mentality, Napoli lived up to such claims in Sunday’s derby, having slumped in another high-octane fixture. There is still plenty of time for Spalletti’s men to bounce back and conquer the league, but tonight’s reverse could have catastrophic consequences from the psychological point of view.
Spalletti seems to be aware of that as he blasted his Napoli players for cracking under pressure.
“If you play for the top of the table the way we did this evening, then the level goes up. If you cannot handle the pressure, then it becomes almost impossible to win,” he told DAZN, as relayed by TUTTOmercatoWEB.
“People are made in very different ways, they have their own characters and souls. This is the level you have to handle in a city like Naples, so if you can’t handle that pressure, you have to step aside. I can assure you, I will be here tomorrow morning with the training plan ready. If you think I won’t be right back at work tomorrow, you’ve lost.“
Napoli will have a chance to recover next week when they meet mid-table Hellas Verona at Marc’Antonio Bentegodi.