Pepe Reina made himself a Napoli hero on Sunday night.
Sure, there's plenty that can be taken away from Napoli's 2-1 victory over Milan at the San Siro, and there will be a time and a place to discuss that (Ahem, Blerim Dzemaili, I'm looking at you). But right now is the time for celebration. And the time to give Reina a crown. And a cape. And a dozen virgins. Whatever he wants, give it to him.
Miguel Britos opened the scoring with his first goal since 2012, when he scored against Chievo. Gonzalo Higuaín got his fourth goal of the season in the second half. But neither will be worshiped the way Napoli's goalkeeper will be after his performance.
You see, Reina saved a penalty. From Mario Balotelli. He stood in the center of the goal, refusing to make a move until Balotelli chose his side. At that point Reina dove, pushing the shot away and forever garnering favor with the partenopei faithful. The save puts an end to Balo's impressive penalty streak, having scored all 21 penalties in his professional career. Until now.
But not only did Reina stop Balotelli's penalty, he went on to deny the Milan forward again and again. The crossbar provided some assistance, but Reina also did well to tip a fierce shot over the bar. In the end, Balotelli got his goal, a swerving strike that tipped into the top corner of the net, leaving nothing for the goalkeeper to do.
It was a nervy finish, with Milan scoring in injury time, then pressing like crazy for the equalizer. Valon Behrami made an essential block at the end, and Napoli survived to record their first win over Milan at the San Siro in 27 years. The partenopei performance may not have been perfect, but their record remains so, and with a home match against Sassuolo up next, perhaps the players can start to breathe a bit.
AC Milan: Abbiati; Abate (Nocerino 79). Zapata, Mexes, Emanuelson; Poli (Niang 73), De Jong, Muntari; Birsa (Robinho 56), Matri, Balotelli
Napoli: Reina; Mesto, Albiol, Britos, Zuniga; Dzemaili, Behrami; Insigne, Hamsik (Panedv 68), Callejon; Higuain (Mertens 78)