A 1-1 stalemate didn’t heal either contender’s wounds as Milan and Napoli split the ante in the match clou of Serie A Round 13. Saturday’s clash at the San Siro Stadium between two dismayed sides confirmed that both Stefano Pioli and Carlo Ancelotti have still much to work on, at the end of a game with few emotions which was solved in the space of five minutes. That’s how much time passed between Hirving Lozano’s opener for the Azzurri and Giacomo Bonaventura levelling off for the red-and-blacks.
The Rossoneri coach, deprived of disqualified Ismael Bennacer and Hakan Calhanoglu, deployed Lucas Biglia next to Rade Krunic and Paquetá in the initial midfield pack and gave a chance from the start to winger Ante Rebic for the first time this season in view of Suso’s last minute forfeit.
Carlo Ancelotti also featured a few surprises in his eleven-man squad, leaving Kostas Manolas and Fabian Ruiz on the bench, replacing them with Nikola Maksimovic and Elif Elmas. Dries Mertens was also unexpectedly left sitting next to his coach, while Hirving Lozano took place along Lorenzo Insigne on the Partenopei’s front line.
Ante Rebic’s cross from the right side in the 7th minute was the first emotion in a match that would offer little to cheer about. Napoli’s Alex Meret pushed the ball away anticipating Giacomo Bonaventura’s diving tap-in. On the other side of the pitch, Gianluigi Donnarumma stayed alert on Napoli’s attempts to cut past the Rossoneri defensive line with a few long-range passes – mostly evidencing the Azzurri’s lack of offensive ideas.
It took an isolated episode to unlock the standstill between two teams held back by their own insecurities, which took the form of a sudden shot fired by Lorenzo Insigne while falling. Napoli’s captain’s conclusion hit Donnarumma’s crossbar and up, up it went. Hirving Lozano was the fastest to pounce on the descending ball and push it in the net with a header to put Napoli in the driving seat in the 23rd minute.
Ancelotti’s delusion however lasted only five minutes, as Giacomo Bonaventura equalized for the home side with an absolute right-foot blaster, finishing a combination with Theo Hernandez and Rade Krunic. The Devils even went close to score the second, finding an unexpected ally in Elsaid Hysaj, who risked deflecting the ball into his own goal in the 34th minute as he tried to defuse a cross by Theo Hernandez.
Napoli went on more aggressive, winning most of the challenges in the midfield area, but no real threat was posed to the Rossoneri goal until just before half time, when Lorenzo Insigne forced his fellow citizen Gianluigi Donnarumma to close the door on him.
Before that, a beautiful cutting cross by Rade Krunic had been wasted by Ante Rebic with a poor execution, paving the way for the Croatian’s substitution with Frank Kessié after the half time break. His teammate Jack Bonaventura made a better figure on the other flank, stopping the ball with his chest and then flipping around Gennaro Di Lorenzo only to see Napoli’s terzino recover and stop his shot.
In the 57th minute, the time came for Dries Mertens to replace José Callejon and supply Napoli with fresher offensive solutions. The Belgian’s best exploit was serving a brilliant filtering pass for Elif Elmas, who couldn’t find anything better to do than diving after going one-on-one with Milan’s goalkeeper. Referee Daniele Orsato was smarter than that and waved a yellow card at the North Macedonian.
Mateo Musacchio had to resort to a brilliant slide-tackle to stop an impressive and overly dangerous progression by Hirving Lozano. Scoring chances however got dimmer as minutes went by, despite both coaches playing their final trump cards: Carlo Ancelotti resorted to his classic move of sending in experienced Fernando Llorente for the last minutes, whereas Stefano Pioli pulled off dismayed Krzysztof Piatek – booed and hooted at by the irritated San Siro supporters – to give way to Rafael Leao.
Both moves were to no avail as the score didn’t chance anymore. Napoli were left 5 points behind the Champions League zone, which could become 8 tomorrow as the Serie A weekend continues to unfold. Milan are stuck in their worst campionato start since 3 points are awarded for victory, having tallied only 14 out of 13 games, their only ray of light being the presence of 18-year-old Daniel Maldini – the legendary Paolo’s son – on the bench for the first time.
November 23, 2019 – Serie A 2019-2020 Round 13
SCORER: 24′ Lozano (N), 29′ Bonaventura (M)
|MILAN (4-3-3): G. Donnarumma; Conti, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Paquetà, Biglia (73′ Calabria), Krunic; Rebic (46′ Kessié), Piatek (85′ Rafael Leao), Bonaventura (Reina, A. Donnarumma, Brescianini, Caldara, Gabbia, Maldini, Suso) Coach: Pioli|
|NAPOLI (4-4-2): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Hysaj; Callejon (58′ Mertens), Allan, Zielinski, Elmas; Insigne (64′ Younes), Lozano (83′ Llorente) (Karnezis, Ospina, Gaetano, Luperto, Manolas, Fabian Ruiz) Coach: Ancelotti|
REFEREE: Mr. Orsato from Schio
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Paquetà, Conti (M), Elmas, Younes (N); Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 4′