Spezia Stun Napoli Away to Pull Off Upset of the Day

Spezia pulled off a massively important win as they came from behind to beat Napoli 2-1 and stun the Armando Maradona Stadium in Serie A Round 16 on Wednesday.

The Bianconeri took all the three points on offer with goals from M’bala Nzola and Tommaso Pobega that canceled Andrea Petagna’s lead and left the Azzurri wondering how on earth they ended up losing a game they largely dominated and played with a one-man advantage for the last 20 minutes.

Napoli had some key absences among their lines in the names of Kalidou Koulibaly, Dries Mertens, and Victor Osimhen – but that is no recent news and Gennaro Gattuso had to make up for it already in the past few games, switching from his preferred 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 setup. Nothing suggested the Partenopei would let the game slip out of their hands.

For Spezia, Vincenzo Italiano is used to reshuffle his lineup cards from game to game – also due to multiple injuries – but had mostly maintained the same trio in the front so far. Today, however, he switched Emmanuel Gyasi for Kevin Agudelo, with M’bala Nzola and Diego Farias confirmed as the other two strikers. New joiner Riccardo Saponara from Fiorentina was on the bench.

Things were taking a dramatic turn for the Aquilotti, who experienced a drop of form after a shimmering start of the season and had collected only one point out of their last six outings. But despite Spezia’s good intentions, the match pretty much followed the expected pattern in the first half, with the Partenopei pegging Italiano’s side back into their own half and the visitors unable to give David Ospina any reason for concern.

Napoli’s start was aggressive, with Lorenzo Insigne and Matteo Politano coming close to score within the first five minutes already. Spezia goalkeeper Ivan Provedel gave them an unexpected hand as in the 11th minute he took too much time to control the ball before clearing it and enabled Hirving Lozano to steal it. Luckily for him and for Spezia, he managed to stop Lorenzo Insigne’s subsequent shot.

On 20 minutes, Politano had another chance as he moved inward after galloping all through the right flank and released a dangerous curling effort that ended just a few inches above the crossbar. Soon enough, there were two more opportunities for Lozano, but first Chucky missed the right timing to shoot from a beautiful Insigne pass, and then saw his effort saved by Provedel.

If truth be told, Spezia’s goalkeeper fumbled the ball into his own net in the occasion, but the linesman’s flag was already raised up as Lozano had been caught offside.

On 36 minutes, a swift combo between Piotr Zielinksi and Lorenzo Insigne resulted in the Partenopei‘s captain having another go at Provedel’s goal, though his conclusion did not match the beauty of the build-up. At half time, the deadlock was still not broken despite Napoli seemingly having their hands on the game.

Italiano sent in Tommaso Pobega and Emmanuel Gyasi after the break, but it was Gattuso’s substitutions to be more effective in the short term: Andrea Petagna took Matteo Politano’s place on 52 minutes and the first time he touched the ball there were troubles again for Provedel, who had to resort to his instinct to push back Petagna’s point-blank range shot.

Five minutes later, however, Petagna didn’t miss. From a Napoli breakaway, the striker received a fine pass from Mario Rui from the right and deflected the service into the back of Spezia’s net with his big left foot.

But then, the unexpected happened: Spezia drew level the very first time they managed to show themselves around Napoli’s area. Fabian Ruiz pushed down Tommaso Pobega in the box and referee Maurizio Mariani sent the Aquilotti to the penalty spot – from where M’bala Nzola made no mistake.

Spezia’s hopes seemed to be short-lived as center-back Ardian Ismajli received his marching orders on 77 minutes after being booked for the second  time for a charge on Petagna and coach Italiano had to add another defender in Martin Erlic – pulling out striker Diego Farias.

You would expect to see Spezia hanging on to the draw and trying to seal one precious point, yet the visitors pulled off the upset of the day as they make it to the scoresheet for the second time in the 81th minute.

Substitute Gyasi conjured a lovely pass for Nzola, who went one-on-one with Ospina and put the ball past him. Tommaso Pobega found himself in the right place at the right time and promptly tapped the ball in after Nzola’s effort was pushed back by the post.

It seemed an incredible outcome considering how the match was trending in its earlier stages, but despite Napoli’s furious yet disorganized reaction, the score didn’t change anymore and Spezia could celebrate their most important win of the season so far.  



January 6, 2021 – Serie A 2020-21 Round 16

SCORERS: 58′ Petagna (N), 68′ Nzola (S, pen.), 81′ Pobega (S)

NAPOLI (4-3-3): Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Maksimovic, Mario Rui; Fabian Ruiz (82′ Llorente), Bakayoko (76′ Elmas), Politano (52′ Petagna); Zielinski, Insigne, Lozano (Meret, Contini, Hysaj, Ghoulam, Rrhamani, Cioffi, Lobotka) Coach: Gattuso
SPEZIA (4-3-3): Provedel; Vignali, Terzi, Ismajli, Marchizza (90′ Ramos); Maggiore (90′ Saponara), Agoumé, Deiola (46′ Pobega); Agudelo (46′ Gyasi), Nzola, Farias (79′ Erlic) (Krapikas, Rafael, Gyasi, Ferrer, Piccoli) Coach: Italiano

REFEREE: Mr. Mariani from Aprilia
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Di Lorenzo, Manolas (N), Pobega, Maggiore, Terzi (S); Red Card: Ismajli (S); Extra Time: 1st Half 2′, 2nd Half 5′

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