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Udinese 1, Napoli 1: Poor Display, Poor Result

An error-ridden match for Napoli saw them finish with ten men and escape the Stadio Friuli with an almost-fortunate point.

... hugs?
... hugs?
Dino Panato

That was... less than pleasant.

ssc napoli blog sbn

Udinese 1 Fernandes 54'
Napoli 1 Callejon 38'

Thanks to a pair of less-than-idea lineups, the match started off in predictably disjointed fashion. Neither side could string together terribly effective possession, and the match was a sloppy, boring affair for most of the opening half hour.

Napoli were finally able to string together a cogent attack just before the half hour mark, with Faouzi Ghoulam, Marek Hamsik, and Lorenzo Insigne combining to slice open Udinese's defense with ease. The move ended with Ghoulam centering for Insigne, but the finish was scuffed and the chance was lost.

Udinese would manage their own threat shortly after, with Roberto Pereyra turning Anthony Reveillere like a training cone and sending in a cross to Emmanuel Badu, who had somehow gotten free just a few yards off the near post. Fortunately, Badu is a more defensive midfielder with very good reason, and his attempt at a low header went safely wide of the post.

After wasting so many brilliant chances in recent weeks, Napoli decided not to let their next slip by. Working off a throw in, Duvan Zapata made a brilliant effort to beat Heautaux and Danilo in the air and flick the ball on across goal, where Jose Callejon was waiting. You generally don't want to see your players take cross-body shots, but if you do, you want to see them taken like Callejon did, putting everything he could in to the shot and powering it past Scuffet to put Napoli ahead.

That goal seemed to wake Udinese up, and the hosts would start to show signs of asserting themselves before the half. They started the second half on the stronger foot as well, though Napoli had the first good chance of the half go wasting after a long ball to Zapata got lost under his feet as he tried to cut back to create more space to shoot with. The next good chance fell to Napoli as well, with Insigne latching on to a ball over the top, fighting for space, then got his shot off only to watch it go just skimming wide of the far post.

It was just another in what's becoming a long series of frustrating moments for Insigne, and he'd have a couple more before the match was over. So many times this season he's done everything right, with the effort and the skill to get the job done, only to be let down by a finish that's just not quite on par. Hopefully he figures out whatever he's missing this season, because if he can find his finish again with all the other quality he's added to his game, Insigne has the potential to be special in Italy.

Unfortunately, Insigne wasn't the only Napoli player having a bad day at the office. A breakdown in central midfield saw Udinese flood forward at the back line with no support to offer, which for some reason pulled Pepe Reina way off his line. Once Allan saw Reina rushing out, he put in a cross to Bruno Fernandes, who had only a simple finish to make and Udinese were level. There was a question of offside from some observers, but the goal was so deserved via Napoli's failures on the buildup that it would have almost been a crime to disallow the goal.

The goal was a microcosm of all the problems Napoli have suffered of late: Valon Behrami got out of control, turned the ball over, and lost his mark, Gokhan Inler got overwhelmed by numbers and picked the wrong path to track back down, Reveillere just sucked, Henrique Buss chased over-aggressively, and Federico Fernandez had too many holes to fill to be effective. Add Reina coming off his line like a wild man for absolutely no reason for the umpteenth time this season, and a goal for Udinese was just too easy not to happen.

As an aside, Reina not coming back next season would be perfectly OK. His repetitive idiotic decision making got old months ago.

From there, things went from bad to worse for Napoli. Udinese started getting forward much more confidently and aggressively, and Napoli started struggling to hold on to possession. A curious substitution of Goran Pandev for Zapata made Napoli's attack even more toothless, as Pandev was utterly anonymous and taking Zapata off the pitch removed the option of playing long balls over the top. Bringing on Jorginho for an atrocious Behrami helped a little, but it was just a bandage on a gushing wound by that point.

Udinese were apply to apply more and more pressure as the match wore on, and it was all Napoli could do to contain them. Callejon and Insigne were pressed in to duty as emergency wingbacks, with Ghoulam tucking inside to support Henrique and Reveillere doing... something. Not sure what, but certainly something. In an "of course that just happened" moment, Fernandez was sent off for a second yellow card in the 89th minute after tripping a sprinting Gabriel Silva. From there, Hamsik came off for Raul Albiol, and all Napoli could do was hold on through extra time, which they were just barely able to do.

This was just another disappointing match in a disappointing second half of the season for Napoli. They've fallen short of every goal and objective for the spring that they could have set save one, the Coppa Italia final. Given Napoli's recent form, achieving even that over an also-disappointing Fiorentina side might not be as simple as we'd like it to be. Hopefully a date with Walter Mazzarri next weekend can help sort things out, because Napoli need to finish this season strong.

Udinese: Scuffet; Heurtaux (Basta 79'), Danilo, Domizzi, Gabriel Silva; Pinzi (Lopez 78'), Badu, Allan; Fernandes, Pereyra, Muriel (Widmer 86')

Napoli: Reina; Reveillere, Fernandez (sent off 89'), Henrique, Ghoulam; Behrami (Jorginho 74'), Inler; Insigne, Hamsik (Albiol 90'), Callejon; Zapata (Pandev 67')