The game was like one of those YouTube videos which show bloopers. To call the game error-strewn would be an injustice – the game was shocking. These two are two of the best teams in Italy and boast of arguably some of the best players in the world, but this game hardly betrayed that fact.
Misses from 6 yards, ball-watching, slips, needless fouls – you name it, and the game had it. Napoli and Rafa Benitez must be so relieved that sections of their stadium are still shut – had their Ultras seen their beloved Azurri give such a miserable performance, they would have surely howled their displeasure. And perhaps the discontentment would not have been limited to the verbal sort.
As it is, Pepe Reina, who is playing like a shadow of what he used to be at Liverpool, managed to keep a clean sheet in a match in which he was kept guessing by the Roma front three. However, the combination of Francesco Totti, Gervinho and Mattia Destro somehow, against all odds, were unable to bundle the ball into the net.
At the other end, Napoli’s forwards, Lorenzo Insigne, Gonzalo Higuain and Jose Callejon weren’t able to do much better. Yes, they came much closer to scoring, and eventually did score, but that does not excuse the horror that they had in front of goal, with the most atrocious misses being Insigne failing to hit the target from 10 yards, Higuain scooping the ball over from 3 yards and an unmarked Callejon heading wide from 6 yards from a corner.
Napoli, however did get all three points courtesy an 82nd minute Callejon goal, when an Insigne cross found the former Real Madrid man at the far post to an easy header into the net. And even that goal was due to errors – Miralem Pjanic was caught in possession in his own half as he looked to play a hopelessly complicated pass when he had three teammates ready at hand. Insigne took the ball to the left corner and crossed it deep for Callejon, who was afforded too much space by the Roma left back Federico Balzaretti. Even after Callejon had headed the ball, the Roma keeper Bogdan Lobonț was caught ball watching, a fact that he realized immediately after conceding as he took a swipe at the goalpost in disgust.
Watching at the touchline, Roma coach Rudi Garcia didn’t seem too impressed either – something about his body language suggested that Lobonț was in for a rollicking after the match.
On the evidence of this match, both Napoli and Roma need a lot of work over this week before their respective matches next Monday. Roma have a tough fixture at home against Udinese while Napoli have a tricky fixture away to Torino.
Juve Extend Serie A Lead
In the other game on Sunday, Juventus extended their lead at the top of Serie A to 14 points after a hard fought 1-0 win over Fiorentina at the Juventus Stadium. The Champions were far from their best but a Kwadwo Asamoah strike just before half-time proved enough to settle the issue.
Juventus haven’t dropped too many points this season while losses have been even rarer but one of them was at the Artemio Franchi. The Viola were staring at defeat when Paul Pogba gave the Old Lady a 2-0 lead but that was just the beginning of the madness. Inspired by the pace of Juan Guillermo Cuadrado and the clinical finishing of Giuseppe Rossi, the Viola stormed back into the match and went on to win 4-2.
Juve boss Antonio Conte would’ve been wary of a repeat and would’ve asked his players to be careful of Fiorentina’s pace on the break. Vincenzo Montela’s men were set out to absorb pressure and managed to frustrate the Bianconeri for long periods. The Juve midfield found space hard to come by and needed some inspiration to finally break the deadlock. Juve left-back Kwadwo Asamoah cut-in from the wing, danced past three Viola defenders with some fancy footwork and then rifled a shot which went in off the far-post.
Despite being in a similar situation earlier in the year, Fiorentina were unable to repeat their heroics as sloppy play and inability to expose Juve – who had long spells with the ball – meant they were unable to create enough chances. However, the Viola had some chances towards the end as Juve’s pressing and intensity was nowhere near the same levels as the first half but the equalizer never came. After the match, Juve boss Anotio Conte explained why there was a drop in intensity.
“It wasn’t an easy game and there’s a lot of credit in having won it,” said Conte. “We created a lot in the first half. In the second tiredness set in a bit. We had a lot of international players on the pitch who played during the week.
The two Italian sides will renew hostilities on Thursday as they were drawn to meet in the last-16 of the Europa League.