Napoli won a dramatic Coppa Italia quarter-final to eliminate holders Lazio, a game with two red cards, a missed penalty, the woodwork rattled four times and two disallowed goals.
The winners of this fixture will go on to face Fiorentina or Inter in the two-legged semi-finals.
Reigning trophy holders Lazio had almost a full-strength squad, effectively missing only Luis Alberto and Danilo Cataldi, and were on a run of 11 consecutive Serie A victories. In very different form are Napoli, as Gennaro Gattuso lost four of his five Serie A games since taking over from Carlo Ancelotti. Stanislav Lobotka and Diego Demme got their first starts, but Dries Mertens, Kalidou Koulibaly, Nikola Maksimovic, Allan, Faouzi Ghoulam and Kevin Malcuit were injured.
There was one boost for the hosts, as the ultras returned to the stands after suspending their protest against ticketing restrictions.
It could not have been a better start for troubled Napoli, because within 90 seconds they had taken the lead. Captain Lorenzo Insigne did it all himself, dribbling down the left and placing it across Thomas Strakosha into the far bottom corner with the inside of the right boot from a tight angle.
However, Lazio fought right back, as Berisha only punched a Sergej Milinkovic-Savic strike and Elseid Hysaj mistimed the challenge on Felipe Caicedo for the rebound, leading to a penalty. The drama continued, as Ciro Immobile in his hometown slipped during the run-up and kicked the penalty into the air with his other foot.
The drama kept coming, as Hysaj made another avoidable error, flinging himself into a tackle to stop Immobile on the counter for his second yellow card, leaving Napoli down to 10 men after just 19 minutes. Gattuso had to adjust, meaning Lobotka’s debut lasted only 22 minutes.
Lucas Leiva’s game didn’t last much longer, as he was very harshly booked for a tackle on Piotr Zielinski, then immediately shown another yellow card for insulting the referee. Although the first yellow was debatable, VAR cannot be used on a booking.
It was straight back to 10 against 10. Both players will be suspended for the next Coppa game, as it’s a separate tournament to Serie A.
Straight after the restart, Strakosha fumbled an easy ball and was accidentally kicked in the head by Arkadiusz Milik as he lunged to smother it.
Immobile and substitute Joaquin Correa tested David Ospina from distance, but Napoli were lucky that when Ospina flapped horribly at Immobile’s volley to see it go into the net, the striker was flagged offside.
Correa fired just over, as Lazio were increasing the pressure and pinning the hosts back into their own half for long periods. However, Milik nearly doubled Napoli’s lead with a rare foray forward, his header fingertipped on to the upright.
Lazio also rattled the woodwork, an Immobile volley bouncing off the bar on 84 minutes, followed moments later at the other end by Mario Rui’s curler smacking against the far post.
On 89 minutes, Lazio had the ball in the back of the net again, as on a corner the initial Manuel Lazzari shot struck the upright and Francesco Acerbi was offside when turning in the rebound.
Marco Parolo’s header looped wide on another corner, as Lazio tried everything to the last minute, but their defence of the Coppa Italia is already over.
Napoli 1-0 Lazio
Insigne 2 (N)
Napoli: Ospina; Hysaj, Manolas, Di Lorenzo, Mario Rui; Lobotka (Luperto 22), Demme, Zielinski; Callejon (Elmas 68), Milik, Insigne (Fabian Ruiz 77)
Lazio: Strakosha; Luiz Felipe, Acerbi, Radu (Patric 70); Lazzari, Milinkovic-Savic, Leiva, Parolo, Lulic (Jony 76); Immobile, Caicedo (Correa 54)
Missed penalty: Immobile 9 (L)
Sent off: Hysaj 19 (N), Leiva 25 (L)
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