Napoli Made to Rue Missed Chances in Defeat to Efficient Sassuolo

Sassuolo were missing Domenico Berardi and Francesco Caputo at the San Paolo, but that would dent their chances as they claimed an impressive 0-2 win over Napoli.

Roberto De Zerbi’s men have been called Atalanta 2.0 with their exciting attacking displays and ability to catch their rivals off guard. Napoli were their latest victims in their first high profile fixture against a top-tier Italian outfit. They gave a good account of their abilities thanks to second-half goals from Manuel Locatelli and Maxime Lopez.

Fans who tuned in to watch goals galore early on were disappointed in the first half. Both sides came close, living up to their billing after managing 30 goals from their 9 Serie A outings. While the Partenopei came in full strength, the visitors were without the services of Domenico Berardi and Francesco Caputo.

The initial forays went in favor of Napoli, who came into the fixture with five wins on the trot at home. Victor Osimhen came closest but Andrea Consigli expertly denied his shot from inside the six-yard box. The Nigerian came close when Giovanni Di Lorenzo sent in a cross, but the Sassuolo custodian was equal to the task. The record Napoli signing would come close again after scuttling free from two defenders’ attention but his shot went over the bar.

Meanwhile, Genaro Gatusso’s men got their best opportunity with Kalidou Koulibaly bringing the ball forward. The towering defender passed to Dries Mertens, who laid it forward for Fabian Ruiz. Consigli parried the Spaniard’s resulting shot, and the ball remained in play. It fell to Matteo Politano, who could not get it past the keeper.

It was not all one-way traffic and Sassuolo managed their own set of chances to keep the Napoli defense in check.  After coming withstanding the pressure, Roberto De Zerbi’s men grew into the fixture. Jeremie Boga showcased his class, while Mert Muldur and Hamed Traore attacked from the flanks. Boga came closest with a fierce shot from outside the box but David Ospina denied him.

Both sides went into the break on equal footing. Osimhen was in the center of things again for the Partenopei. However, akin to his misgivings in the first half, the forward’s header from Elseid Hysaj’s cross was wide of the mark. Mertens, too, would try his luck from a free-kick, but a diving Consigli thwarted his effort.

Napoli upped the ante as the match entered the “Sassuolo period” – the Neroverdi have scored 3 goals after the 57-minute mark in their last 3 outings. The script would be followed as Giacomo Raspadori broke into the box but was brought down by Giovanni Di Lorenzo. The referee Maurizio Mariani waved play on but pointed to the spot after a VAR check. Manuel Locatelli stepped up and sent a fierce shot into the bottom right corner. David Ospina guessed it right but was helpless to keep the ball out of his net. Advantage Sassuolo.

The hosts got a great opportunity to equalize in the 66th minute. Matteo Politano sent in a cross from the right flank and found Dries Mertens. The Belgian was not under any pressure and in acres of space but somehow managed to miss the target. It was not the experienced attacker’s night and the exciting Elif Elmas soon replaced him.

Napoli would continue to huff and puff. They were camped around the Sassuolo box but none of their chances bore fruit. Opportunities would come their way, but as lady luck would have it, not a single meaningful threat on goal was created. Osimhen continued to be wasteful at the tip of the attack, while the defensive duo of Koulibaly and Manolas tested the visiting goalkeeper. The Greek defender would hit the back of the net in added time, but it was ruled out for offside.

Osimhen continued to run at the opposition for the duration of the fixture and had a strong penalty shout. It would be swatted away and give time for the Neroverdi to launch a counter-attack. Maxime Lopez would profit from the Partenopei’s lack of focus, dancing his way around two defenders before attempting a shot. Ospina got a hand to the ball, but it would slowly swing away across the line where Fabian Ruiz could only watch it.

With two minutes remaining, Napoli had no chance to get anything from the fixture. It would end 0-2 in favor of the visitors, who managed their first clean sheet in seven attempts. Sassuolo’s victory would also bring an end to their win-less run against the hosts, which stretched to August 2015 and 10 competitive meetings. The Neroverdi are now second on the points table after six Serie A fixtures.

While Roberto De Zerbi will be happy with the result, Gennaro Gattuso would not be pleased. He suffered his first defeat of the season from open play but the problem is how it came to be. Gattuso would question how his side failed to make anything from their 18 goal attempts. Such was their iniquity that they never threatened the Sassuolo defense with a meaningful effort.

Before their next competitive outing, the combative tactician has to find a solution for Osimhen’s poor performance in front of goal. The young attacker has a paltry Serie A strike against his name and needs to give a better account of his abilities. But for the time being, they will have to be somber in defeat and applaud their tenacious rivals who secured the points without two of their star performers.



November 1, 2020 – Serie A 2020-2021 Round 6

SCORERS: 59′ Locatelli pen., 95′ Lopez

NAPOLI (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Koulibaly, Hysaj (70′ Mario Rui); Fabian Ruiz, Bakayoko; Politano, Mertens (70′ Elmas), Lozano (65′ Petagna); Osimhen (Meret, Contini, Rrahmani, Maksimovic, Malcuit, Ghoulam, Zielinski, Lobotka, Demme) Coach: Gattuso
SASSUOLO (4-2-3-1): Consigli; Ayhan, Chiriches (88′ Marlon), Ferrari, Rogerio; Locatelli, Lopez; Muldur (81′ Kyriakopoulos), Traoré (68′ Defrel), Boga (81′ Obiang); Raspadori (88′ Bourabia) (Pegolo, Turati, Vitale; Peluso, Piccinini, Steau) Coach: De Zerbi

REFEREE: Mr. Mariani from Aprilia
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Manolas, Ospina (N), Locatelli, Bourabia (S); Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 6′