Napoli vs Milan 0-1: Giroud Strike Sends Devils to Heaven

The Serie A Sunday night six-pointer between Napoli and Milan certified Stefano Pioli’s squad’s title ambitions as the Rossoneri raided the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium with a lone goal from Olivier Giroud. The former Chelsea striker was quick to pounce on a Davide Calabria shot and deflect it past David Ospina to preserve Milan’s top-spot in the table.

Napoli failed once again their trial of fire, falling right when it seemed that they could have their say on the path towards the Scudetto. Luciano Spalletti’s side conceded the only goal of the night almost randomly, but their reaction was disorganized and ultimately inefficient.

Spalletti pretty much confirmed the lineup that snatched a last-gasp win at Lazio last week, with the only exception of Stanislav Lobotka back in the middle of the park in Diego Demme’s place. André-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Hirving Lozano were fit for the bench.

For Milan, Pioli had to replace the injured Alessio Romagnoli with Pierre Kalulu at center back. Sandro Tonali and Ismael Bennacer filled the double pivot role while Franck Kessié was moved forward to play between Junior Messias and Rafael Leao behind lone striker Giroud. Zlatan Ibrahimovic came back as a substitute for the first time since the end of January.

High Intensity but Few Scoring Chances

The match at the Maradona Stadium was an intense affair from the get-go. There was controversy early in the game as both sides reclaimed a penalty.

First, Bennacer collided with Kalidou Koulibaly in the box, sparking wild protests on Pioli’s part. Then, it was Victor Osimhen to fall from a Fikayo Tomori tackle after being majestically picked by a Fabian Ruiz long-range cross. Referee Daniele Orsato waved play on in both occasions without even consulting the VAR. 

Napoli and Milan neutralized each other in the first 45 minutes. Napoli had the upper hand in the initial stages of the game but, as soon as Rafael Leao got warmed up, the Rossoneri reversed the trend, well led by the Portuguese’s dazzling dribbles.

On 28 minutes, Messias had the clearest chance so far with a close-range header from a corner kick that severely tested Ospina’s reflexes. Even in this case, though, it would not have counted as the referee had picked a Giroud offense foul in the box.

Giroud Early Second-Half Goal Sends Devils to Heaven

The stage seemed set for a match that could only be decided by a one-off episode. Which is exactly what happened in favor of Milan as a shot from Davide Calabria found a deadly deflection from Giroud. The Frenchman’s effort wrong-footed Ospina and awarded him his first league goal away from San Siro.

It happened less than four minutes into the second half and that disrupted any residual game plan as both sides threw caution away and went into full-scale attack mode. The result was a chaotic match with still much intensity but where scoring chances continued to lack. Napoli failed to reorganize themselves and to pose any real threat to Mike Maignan. 

On the contrary, the next challenge came again from Milan as Bennacer’s curl called Ospina to action yet another time. Coach Spalletti tried to reshuffle his cards, first bringing in Elif Elmas and Adam Ounas, and then eventually adding Dries Mertens plus Anguissa and Lozano in the final stages.

Ounas and Lozano were the most dangerous among the Partenopei lines with two shots that went wide off target. And so, the only occasion when Maignan had to dirt his gloves was from an Osimhen shot at the near post which the French shot-stopper managed to neutralize.

With Napoli desperately looking for an equalizer, Ospina had to save from Theo Hernandez before Alexis Saelemaekers would squander a gigantic chance to make it two for the Rossoneri and wrap the game in their favor. It was just a matter of a few seconds though, as soon enough Orsato blew for full time as Napoli protested vehemently at Milan’s timewasting tactics in the dying minutes of stoppage time. 

What’s Next for Napoli and Milan

Milan came back to winning ways after two ties in a row that had cooled down their enthusiasm. Their next match-up will be at the San Siro as they receive Empoli next Saturday. Napoli will play at Verona the following day. The battle for the Scudetto is still open as the Partenopei are only three points far from Milan but surely tonight’s loss must have hit hard on their morale.



March 6, 2022 – Serie A 2021-2022 Round 28

SCORERS: 49′ Giroud

NAPOLI (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Koulibaly, Mario Rui; Fabian Ruiz (76′ Mertens), Lobotka (82′ Lozano); Politano (67′ Ounas), Zielinski (82′ Anguissa), Insigne (67′ Elmas); Osimhen (Meret, Marfella, Ghoulam, Juan Jesus, Zanoli, Demme, Petagna) Coach: Spalletti
MILAN (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria (80′ Florenzi), Kalulu, Tomori, Hernandez; Bennacer, Tonali (68′ Krunic); Messias (80′ Saelelmaekers), Kessié, Rafael Leao (90′ Ibrahimovic); Giroud (68′ Rebic) (Tatarusanu, Mirante, Ballo-Touré, Gabbia, Castillejo, Brahim Diaz, Maldini) Coach: Pioli
REFEREE: Mr. Orsato from Schio
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Koulibaly, Rrahmani, Osimhen, Ounas (N), Giroud, Hernandez, Maignan, Florenzi (M); Added Time: 1st Half 4′, 2nd Half 5′