Last Wednesday, Napoli were unlucky to only grab a point from their Champions League match against PSG. On Sunday night that narrative continued. Unlike the game in Paris, though, Napoli were the team who had to fight back.
Heading into Sunday night’s match at the Stadio San Paolo, spirits were high among Napoli tifosi. With Roma yet to find their footing in Serie A and the Partenopei beginning to kick into gear, a Napoli win seemed the likely outcome. Unfortunately for those in attendance, their heroes on the pitch fell just that little bit further behind Juventus in the race for the Scudetto.
After some delay due to VAR not working, the match was underway. Roma attempted to establish themselves as the possession holders, but Napoli eventually gained control and went to work. Ancelotti’s side began to pepper the Roma defence, but it was to no avail as they were unable to take the lead. After weathering the storm that is the Partenopei attack, Eusebio Di Francesco’s men silenced the San Paolo. Following some great movement down the right flank, Cengiz Ünder’s assisted Stephan El Shaarawy to take a surprise lead. Despite going down, we’ve seen on multiple occasions that Napoli are not a side that lies down.
The goal led to the hosts turning up the pressure and attacking with even more tenacity. Insigne led the charge as he’s done so far this season, but he wasn’t his usual lethal self as he wasted multiple chances to get his team back in the game. Napoli pushed on, Roma, though, would not buckle. Kostas Manolas & Co. did an amazing job of ensuring their team’s lead was held, and goalkeeper Robin Olsen came up with some massive saves throughout the match to deny Napoli’s attempts for an equalizer. However, the goal would inevitably come for Napoli. Dries Mertens, replacing Arkadiusz Milik, scored in the 90th minute, off a mishit Insigne cross, to salvage a point for his side. The San Paolo faithful erupted into cheers, elated that their team got the least of what they deserved out of the match.
Roma fans, on the other hand, will be happy with the result, despite giving up all three points right at the end. Seeing that Roma had previously lost to SPAL, it was a positive result to calm their worries seeing as many tipped them to lose.
Its a different story for Napoli though, as going forward, need to start fixing the little mistakes. Overall the team has continued their fluid play, with their performances in the Champions League boosting the respect given to them on a global scale. Also, their self-establishment as the Bianconeri’s main rival for the Scudetto has helped them silence those who believed they would struggle under Ancelotti.
Despite that, Napoli have struggled in taking control and closing out big games. If they want to continue to push Juventus and potentially bring the league title back to Naples, they need to minimise their mistakes and take their chances when they occur. This issue was on display against Roma as Napoli could’ve put three past their opponent if they finished their chances.
With the Bianconeri in such formidable form, dropping just two points so far, and Inter recovering from a bad start, it’s in these matches that the Scudetto will be won or lost.