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The match clou of Serie A Round 28 at San Siro Stadium ended with no goals and no winners, as Inter and Napoli failed to hurt each other, and left the pitch with their sheets clean. Tonight’s celebration was all for Juventus, which overtook the Azzurri at the top of the league and now have the chance to increase their newly-gained lead to +4 points, should they win their catch-up match with Atalanta next Wednesday.
Inter-Napoli was a tense game that offered very few emotions, with the Partenopei’s sterile ball possession failing to produce any danger to the opponent goal tonight, and confirming that the unexpected defeat to Roma from one week ago did actually open some cracks in Maurizio Sarri squad’s confidence.
The legendary poor quality of the pitch in San Siro also lived up to its fame, and had its part in limiting the effectiveness of play, for what turned to be an all but memorable celebration of the Nerazzurri’s 110th birthday. The recurrence was honored by Inter supporters on the stands anyway, with a beautiful choreography.
But if Luigi Di Biagio, the interim Italy coach who is about to announce his first official convocations, was looking for some indications from the bleachers of the Milano stadium, his notebook may very well have remained blank. The most dangerous chance of the night fell on the head of Inter’s center back Milan Skriniar: But he is Slovak, and Di Biagio can’t call him…
In order not to miss the Champions League qualification train, Luciano Spalletti tried to shuffle his cards and re-proposed Roberto Gagliardini on the midfield line, together with Marcelo Brozovic. Brazilian fantasista Rafinha was given the task to supply ammunitions for Mauro Icardi. Still, the Nerazzurri’s captain would have passed totally unnoticed tonight, if it wasn’t for his new haircut.
For Maurizio Sarri, deciding the starting lineup was business as usual, the Napoli-born coach confirming his traditional eleven men. His three musketeers (José Callejon, Lorenzo Insigne, and Dries Mertens) tried to shake the match up darting as usual between their opponent defensive line, but the Nerazzurri didn’t hesitate to get tougher to defuse their plan – Gagliardini sending a clear message to Mertens, with a vicious tackle that earned him a place in referee Daniele Orsato’s black list.
In the 38th minute, Rafinha found the right pass to serve Antonio Candreva on the right side, with Inter’s Number 87 delivering a curl shot that didn’t end far from the left post of Napoli’s goal. That was the clearest scoring chance in the initial 45 minutes, but all in all, both keepers Samir Handanovic and Pepe Reina went for the break at half time with their gloves still clean.
Milan Skriniar’s sudden chance just three minutes into the second half, the Slovak hitting Reina’s post with a header on a free kick by Joao Cancelo, generated some hope for seeing a different match pattern in the last 45 minutes – and hopes were indeed reinforced when Insigne tried to catch Handanovic by surprise from afar, with a curl that missed the target by a few inches only.
But it was a false dawn, as the momentum quickly slowed down again, the emblematic image being Cancelo trying to conclude a counterattack in the 62nd minute with a cross, only to see his attempt frustrated by the killer grass clumps of San Siro.
The last 20 minutes of play saw Spalletti and Sarri operating a series of substitutions that failed to instill any spark in a confrontation whose natural outcome was a final score a occhiali (“a glasses-like score,” as Italians call a 0-0 score due to its resemblance to a pair of glasses…).
Serie A has a new leader from tonight and, if Juventus do their part on Wednesday and overcome Atalanta, our impression is that it will be hard for Napoli to regain the leadership they lost at San Siro.
March 11, 2018 – Serie A 2017-18 Round 28
|INTER (4-2-3-1): Handanovic; Cancelo, Skriniar, Miranda, D’Ambrosio; Brozovic, Gagliardini; Candreva (78′ Borja Valero), Rafinha (64′ Eder), Perisic (86′ Karamoh); Icardi (Padelli, Berni, Ranocchia, Lisandro Lopez, Santon, Dalbert, Vecino) Coach: Spalletti|
|NAPOLI (4-3-3): Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Mario Rui; Allan (89′ Rog), Jorginho, Hamsik (70′ Zielinski); Callejon, Mertens (86′ Milik), Insigne (Rafael, Sepe, Tonelli, Maggio, Milic, Diawara, Machach, Ounas) Coach: Sarri|
REFEREE: Mr. Orsato from Schio
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Gagliardini (I), Allan, Insigne, Albiol (N)