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Napoli 1, Paris Saint-Germain 2 Match Review: Second-string nightmares

A happy reunion with old flames gave way to Napoli outplaying one of the giants of Europe in one half and falling to pieces in the second, but most of the first unit at least looked ready for the club's next challenge.

Miss you Pocho.
Miss you Pocho.
Giuseppe Bellini

This was an emotional match even before the first kick. The San Paolo was packed, with fans forced in all the way to the rafters to greet their returning heroes, Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi. The beloved duo were making their first appearance in Naples since leaving Napoli for Paris Saint-Germain over the last two years, and the warm reception for them from both fans and former teammates was joyous to behold.

When the match got underway, Cavani and Lavezzi lead the PSG charge as the visitors came out hard on the front foot. Both players were involved in multiple chances for the French side in the first 15 minutes, but as has so often been the case for them since moving to Paris, nothing quite came off right, and the visitors were left without a goal to show for their efforts.

The momentum very rapidly began to shift to Napoli's favor, and an injury to Thiago Silva only made the shift that much faster. The Brazilian international appeared to land a little awkwardly after clearing away a ball meant for Marek Hamsik in the box, and he immediately headed behind the goal and called for the trainers even though the ball was still active in the box. He was subbed out right away and was soon seen being helped to the locker room with a heavy wrap around his right hamstring. The extent of the injury isn't yet known, but it didn't look good for PSG's captain.

The rest of the first half was almost all Napoli, with Hamsik running amok in front of PSG's defense. None of David Luiz, Yohan Cabaye, or Blaise Matuidi could handle Hamsik, and he pulled strings all over the pitch to create chances for Duvan Zapata, Lorenzo Insigne, and Jose Callejon, but the finishing touch just wasn't quite there for Napoli in the first half.

The second half was a different story for both sides. Gonzalo Higuain made his preseason debut for Napoli, coming on with Michu, Dries Mertens, Gokhan Inler, and Faouzi Ghoulam in a mass sub that saw Hamsik, Callejon, Zapata, Gargano, and Koulibaly all removed. Higuain looked like he had never been away, though, as he scored just five minutes after coming on to put Napoli up 1-0. Insigne, who was thoroughly excellent in the second half, put in a driven shot that was only just deflected by Nicholas Douchez, but Higuain pounced on the rebound to put the hosts on the scoreboard.

It wouldn't take long for PSG to respond; five minutes later, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, introduced for Cavani at the half, was left unmarked by Miguel Britos at the far post for no apparent reason, allowing him to latch on to a deflected shot across the box for a way-too-easy equalizer. You shouldn't leave anyone unmarked sitting off the far post like that, but to leave Zlatan of all people unmarked is borderline criminal. But, Britos gonna Britos, so we probably shouldn't be too surprised.

It took 20 minutes of delightfully back-and-forth football for PSG to find the breakthrough for their second goal, but it was of course again Britos at fault. Javier Pastore put on some flashy moves and left Britos standing still looking like an invalid, giving the Argentine an almost unimpeded path at goal and a simple finish past Mariano Andujar, who had only replaced Rafael Cabral moments before. Britos wouldn't cost Napoli a third goal, but he did cause several more near-disasters by the end of the match, including directly causing a three-on-one for PSG that Napoli only barely kept out of goal.

Britos' horror show aside, Napoli were actually very good on a whole today. The presumed starting eleven players and most of the reserves all looked ready to rock against Athletic Bilbao next week, even including Gonzalo Higuain, who only made his first appearance today. As long as Rafa gets away from this ridiculous preseason lineup that shoehorns in Britos and Gargano for no apparent reason, Napoli stand a very good chance if they can keep up the level of performance that we saw today and last week against Barcelona.