Napoli Slip to Costly Draw to Verona, Miss Champions League Spot

Napoli took on Verona in their final game of the season with their Champions League destiny in their own hands. Win and qualification would be secure but if Milan and Juventus were to beat the Neapolitans’ score, the home side would drop into the Europa League.

Gennaro Gattuso made only one change from the victory away to Fiorentina with Mexican international Hirving Lozano replacing Matteo Politano on the right wing with the Italian winger dropping to the bench. Victor Osimhen would look to keep up his recent good goal scoring record having netted 7 goals in his last 10 appearances with Belgian Dries Mertens having to be content with a spot on the bench.

Verona coach Ivan Jurić also stuck with the majority of his starting 11 from the 2-2 draw with Bologna last time out with Antonín Barák dropping out due to injury and replaced by Polish midfielder Paweł Dawidowicz.

The first half was a very quiet affair with neither side being able to break down very well disciplined and stringent defenses. Lorenzo Insigne came close for the home side curling a left footed effort just wide of backup goalkeeper Ivor Pandur’s right hand post, after chopping inside between two Verona defenders. Lozano fired just over from the right hand side of the six yard box.

Verona held their own and looked threatening down the left through Darko Lazović and Mattia Zaccagni, playing around right back Giovanni Di Lorenzo multiple times with Lozano offering little protection to his full back. The away side were also forced into a change before half time with Paweł Dawidowicz sustaining a knock and replaced by Destiny Udogie.

With Milan and Juventus both winning at half time, the home side needed to up their game to ensure they did not miss out on qualification to Europe’s premier club competition.

Verona started the second half brightly and forced a couple of early saves from Alex Meret, the first a diving cross at the feet of Nikola Kalinić and then a second parrying away a left-footed shot from inside the box from Federico Dimarco after a quick breakaway involving Zaccagni.

Napoli though gathered themselves being driven forward by captain Lorenzo Insigne. The Italian attacker forced a corner and the resulting delivery from Piotr Zieliński was toward the back post where Napoli center-backs Kostas Manolas and Amir Rrahmani were waiting. Both rose for the ball and the resulting challenge saw the ball drop kindly for the Kosovan Rrahmani as he slammed it home to give Napoli a precious lead.

The lead though did not last long and Verona equalized just before the 70-minute mark. A long ball forward from centerback caught out Elsaid Hysaj who had not seen the run of Davide Faraoni and the ball bounced in front of the midfielder. Faraoni nudged it forward into his path and fired across Meret, who could not stop the ball hitting the post and rolling over the line.

Gattuso responded by making a double substitution with Mário Rui and Dries Mertens coming on for Hysaj and Zieliński. They were soon followed by striker Andrea Petagna as Napoli went in desperate search of a valuable winner.

Try as they might the Azzurri could not create a clear cut opportunity and that, combined with the Milan and Juventus results, meant the home side slipped out of the top-four much to the devastation of their players as another year in the Europa League awaits.  



May 23, 2021 – Serie A 2020-21 Round 38

SCORERS: 61′ Rrahmani (N), 69′ Faraoni (V)

NAPOLI (4-2-3-1): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Rrahmani, Hysaj (72′ Mario Rui); Fabian Ruiz, Bakayoko (81′ Petagna); Lozano (67′ Politano), Zielinski (72′ Mertens), L. Insigne; Osimhen (Ospina, Contini, Zedadka, Costanzo, Demme, Elmas, Lobotka, D’Agostino) Coach: Gattuso
VERONA (4-2-3-1): Pandur (63′ Berardi); Ceccherini (77′ Lovato), Gunter, Dimarco; Faraoni (77′ Ruegg), Dawidowicz (41′ Udogie), Ilic, Lazovic; Bessa, Zaccagni; Kalinic (63′ Lasagna) (Silvestri, Veloso, Salcedo, Cetin, Magnani, Sturaro, Colley) Coach: Juric

REFEREE: Mr. Chiffi from Padova
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Lozano, Bakayoko (N), Ilic, Dawidowicz, Udogie, Dimarco (V); Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 4′