Gennaro Gattuso’s Napoli debut did not go as planned, because Parma struck twice on the counter with Dejan Kulusevski and Gervinho to win 2-1 at the Stadio San Paolo.
The Partenopei made their debut under new coach Gattuso, having fired Carlo Ancelotti on Tuesday evening just hours after a 4-0 Champions League win over Genk. Rino immediately returned them to Maurizio Sarri’s old 4-3-3 formation, though Nikola Maksimovic was suspended, with Faouzi Ghoulam, Kevin Malcuit and Lorenzo Tonelli injured. Parma were in joint seventh place with Napoli, so it was a head-to-head for position, but Roberto Inglese, Yann Karamoh, Juraj Kucka and Matteo Scozzarella were injured.
The hosts also debuted their new black Kombat Districts kit, with design marking the various neighbourhoods of the city.
The game kicked off 30 minutes later than planned, as a storm overnight had damaged the roof, so they needed time to secure some tiles.
It was the worst possible start to the Gattuso era. Within five minutes, Kalidou Koulibaly had to stop one dangerous counter-attack, then lost the ball cheaply under pressure from Dejan Kulusevski and injured himself while trying to run after the winger, who scored with a low drive past Alex Meret at the near post.
No sooner had Sebastiano Luperto come on in his place, the young defender did practically the same thing, caught in possession and fortunate Andreas Cornelius picked the wrong pass, or it would’ve been 2-0.
Napoli fought back, but Lorenzo Insigne horribly scuffed the ball from eight yards on a Giovanni Di Lorenzo pull-back.
Parma were also forced into a change, as Cornelius pulled up in agony with a thigh strain, so Mattia Sprocati came on and Kulusevski moved to a False 9 role.
Piotr Zielinski ballooned over the bar after bursting into the box and really should’ve done better, but nothing compared to Insigne who had shaken off a defender on the Arkadiusz Milik through ball only to somehow fire wide from eight yards.
Insigne set up Fabian Ruiz on the edge of the box only for the Spaniard to scuff meekly into the arms of Luigi Sepe. On the other hand, every time Parma went on the counter, they seemed likely to score, Gervinho’s effort fingertipped on to the inside of the upright by Meret just before half-time.
Insigne completed a give-and-go with Milik’s back-heel flick only to again turn off target when relatively undisturbed.
In first half stoppages, the referee pointed to the spot for a Napoli penalty. However, after an on-field review, he saw that if Hernani had accidentally clipped Zielinski’s heel, he did so just outside the area, so the decision was changed to a free kick.
Sepe had to make his first genuine save of the game on 58 minutes, struggling to push an Insigne free kick out of the near top corner, then was behind a Milik header into the ground.
Dries Mertens replaced Allan and made an immediate impact, providing the assist for Milik’s headed equaliser within a minute of coming off the bench. The Belgian cut back inside and looped a ball over the defence for his towering header into the far bottom corner.
It was a Napoli siege, but Parma always dangerous on the counter, as Gervinho slalomed past everyone and looked certain to score from seven yards until Meret stuck out a foot to parry.
Milik only managed to graze a Mario Rui ball across the face of goal, while Mertens had two sudden snapshots that were not far off target at all. Gervinho and Kulusevski were always dangerous on the counter, so it was end to end stuff.
That proved pivotal, because deep into stoppages, a Napoli corner was cleared to set Gervinho running. He combined passes brilliantly with Kulusevski, who split the defence to send the Ivorian one-on-one to prod past Meret. It means Parma now break three points clear of Napoli in the table.
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