Napoli were unable to close the gap on Real Madrid at the top of Champions League Group C. Gil Azzurri gave up a 1-0 lead to draw 1-1 at home against Union Berlin.
Matteo Politano gave Napoli an early lead to cap a one-sided first half for the hosts, where they also had a goal disallowed. However, Rudi Garcia’s side were rocked by a deadly Union counter to level the scores just after half time. Gil Azzurri struggled to regain their composure missed several late chances and had to settle for a home draw.
For Union, the point came as a massive relief following a run of 12 consecutive defeats in all competitions. While the Bundesliga side cannot qualify for the Champions League knockout rounds, they can still aim for third place and a subsequent Europa League spot.
Natan Nearly Nods Napoli Ahead
Looking to consolidate their second-place position in Group C, Napoli took control of possession. Butt the first chance fell to a Union Berlin side without a goal in five straight matches. Sheraldo Becker tried his like from a tight angle although his tame strike didn’t really threaten Alex Meret.
The Union chance did little to disrupt Napoli’s rhythm and Gil Azzurri eventually started to look dangerous. Piotr Zieliński nearly had the opener with a strong shot inside the area that Frederik Rønnow pushed around the post.
Napoli continued to control possession and were patient in their approach. Eventually, the Scudetto winners got into dangerous positions and an unlikely source had Gil Azzurri’s best chance in the early stages. Natan remained forward after Union cleared a corner and the defender rose to connect with Zieliński’s cross but his header clipped the outside of the post.
VAR Can’t Prevent Azurri’s Attack
Suddenly, Napoli had Union on the ropes and the hosts thought they’d opened the scoring on the half hour mark.
Crosses continued to fly into the German’s penalty area and the approach paid off. Mário Rui’s well-weighted cross was knocked down by Giovanni Di Lorenzo for Frank Anguissa to header in. However, the goal was disallowed after a VAR review as Di Lorenzo committed a foul during the build-up.
Napoli were relentless in their pursuit of a goal before half time and the wide approach continued. Rui was involved again when the Serie A side officially took the lead. A rapid attack finished with the full-back sliding a cross into a dangerous area that rebounded off a defender and Matteo Politano improvised by cheating the ball into the net.
Despite dominating for most of the first half, Napoli invited pressure just before half time. Union almost took full advantage when Giacomo Raspadori tripped Janik Haberer on the edge of the box for a free-kick. Josip Juranović stepped up and hammered a low strike that left Meret rooted and cannoned off the foot of the post.
Rapid Union Counter Knocks Napoli Momentum
Napoli were eager to push on and take the game away from Union. Half chances came after the break with Matteo Politano snatching at a shot inside the area and shooting high and wide.
The Naples side tried to force the second goal too much. committed too many players forward and were undone by a devastating Union counterattack. A sudden long ball forward created a 2v1 situation for the visitors and Becker had space to fire at Meret. However, the goalkeeper prairied straight to David Datro Fofana and the forward fired into the net.
Now, Gil Azzurri faced a tough test to break down Union to win and move closer to the Champions League knockout rounds. The goal rattled Napoli and the hosts started to look more cagey and chances became less frequent.
Eventually, the hosts were forced to push on and try to recover their lead. A stalemate period took hold until Amir Rrahmani glanced a header onto the roof of the net. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia was next to try and put his side back in front with a jinking solo run and shot at Rønnow.
Kvaratskhelia had one last chance to get Napoli back in front. But the midfielder mis-timed his volley and sent his attempt straight at.Rønnow. The Stadio Diego Armando Maradona were left disappointed and the pressure is likely to increase on Garcia after this latest setback.