Milan vs Napoli 1-0: A Theo Hernandez Flash in the San Siro Night

A Theo Hernandez flash in the middle of the first half lighted up the night at the San Siro and was enough for Milan to make a full score against Walter Mazzarri’s Napoli. The Rossoneri took the lead on 25 minutes despite Napoli’s aggressive start and managed to stay on top despite slowing down in the second part of the game.

They thus extended their Serie A non-losing streak to nine games (with seven wins) and reduced their gap from Juventus to one point only as they wait for the Old Lady to take on Udinese tomorrow night. That’s the best that Stefano Pioli could hope for ahead of the key Europa League match-up against Rennes this coming Thursday. 

The Partenopei were in control for most of the second half but failed to create any real threat to Mike Maignan until very late in the game, when a Jan-Carlo Simic defensive deflection sent the ball crashing into his own post. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia showed glimpses of the talent that earned him the Serie A MVP title last season, while substitute Matteo Politano did better that Giovanni Simeone upfront. Still, Napoli came up empty handed and now risk seeing the Champions League qualification quota get farther and farther.

Mazzarri lined up Napoli with a back-three defense reminiscent of his first stint in the Partenopei dugout, placing Kvaratskhelia behind Simeone on the front line. Pioli, on the other hand, confirmed his usual formation, save for Tijjani Reijnders who was serving a one-match ban and was replaced by Ismael Bennacer. 

Napoli’s approach to the game seemed the right one. The Partenopei pushed from the get-go while Milan appeared slow and lethargic. It took a sudden scare to wake them up as Simeone failed to find the target from the center of the box, well served by Kvaratskhelia from the right side, after the Georgian produced one of those dazzling dribbles that made him famous last term. 

Milan’s lead seemed to come out of the blue, indeed. It was the result of a brilliant combination between Olivier Giroud, Rafael Leao and Hernandez. The French full back started and concluded the job, slotting the ball past Pierluigi Gollini at the near post after being served by Leao with an eye-catching filtering pass. 

That was the beginning of Milan’s best moment, which lasted until early into the second half. Giroud should have made it two for the Rossoneri as he pounced on a defective save from Gollini, but he was too slow and gave the Neapolitan custodian the chance to recover and block the ball. It was the key moment of the game as Milan lost their golden chance to wrap up the match in their favor.

Napoli regained some courage as the minutes went by. Pioli seemed comfortable with defending the slim lead and had his boy limit themselves to wait for the Azzurri to take the initiative, hoping to hit them on the counter. The plan seemed to work in a couple of occasions but Leao was wasteful in both cases, first deciding to serve a teammate rather than going for the kill, and then firing the ball off target from a favorable position. Aside from his brilliant pass for Theo Hernandez’s winner, the Portuguese put together another lackluster performance. 

The Partenopei‘s pressure didn’t bear fruit, however, as their ball possession and quick passes always seemed to miss the final touch. Too bad that Victor Osimhen was a thousand miles away, playing (and losing…) in the AFCON Final with his Nigeria. Politano’s entrance in the middle of the second half gave Napoli some fresh energies and the former Sassuolo men was the most dangerous among his lines, with a couple of shots that only narrowly missed the target.

Napoli came the closest to equalize when substitute defender Simic hit the ball in the wrong direction and was saved by the goal post, with Maignan defusing the subsequent shot. Perhaps the Partenopei deserved to salvage at least a tie. This was not their worst showing since Walter Mazzarri took over from Rudi Garcia, but their position in the league table continues to be a red flag.    



February 11, 2024 – Serie A 2023/24 Round 24

SCORER: 25′ Hernandez 

MILAN (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria (37′ Florenzi), Kjær (66′ Simic), Gabbia, Hernández; Bennacer (66′ Musah), Adli; Pulisic (80′ Jiménez), Loftus-Cheek, Rafael Leao; Giroud (80′ Jovic) (Mirante, Sportiello, Terracciano, Victor; Okafor) Coach: Pioli
NAPOLI (3-5-1-1): Gollini; Østigård (46′ Politano), Rrahmani, Juan Jesus (89′ Ngonge); Di Lorenzo, Anguissa, Lobotka, Zieliński (76′ Olivera), Mazzocchi (76′ Lindstrøm); Kvaratskhelia; Simeone (55′ Raspadori) (Contini, Natan, Cajuste, Dendoncker, Traorè) Coach: Mazzarri

REFEREE: Mr. Doveri from Rome
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Hernandez (M), Juan Jesus (N); Added Time: 1st Half 3′, 2nd Half 5′