Hope, as it so often does, turned to disappointment on Sunday for Napoli fans. The partenopei lacked their usual sharpness against Genoa, and thanks to some poor luck and being far more wasteful in front of goal than normal, they had to settle for a 0-0 draw and fourth place in Serie A instead of a win and sitting on top of the table.
It wasn't even a terribly bad performance for Napoli. It just wasn't very good either -- the team largely looked tired and out of sync, but they still played hard and tried to get the job done. The terrible state of the pitch at the Marassi didn't help things either, but even on a better pitch, it would be hard to see things winding up much different given how Napoli struggled at times.
Further giving problems to Napoli is that when they did get a run of effective play, it ended one of two ways. More commonly, the chance was wasted -- be if from a dodgy final ball, or a poor choice in shots, or things just randomly breaking down, Napoli were very, very poor in the final third today compared to their usual form this season. And when they did get on the same page and create something dangerous, Mattia Perin was there to stop them cold.
The young Italian had a very good performance in goal, stopping all eight of Napoli's shots that they managed to get on target and cutting off several other chances, including a couple of withering spells of play in the second half after Lorenzo Insigne and Manolo Gabbiadini came on to support Gonzalo Higuain. It was easily Perin's best match of his injury-shortened season, and if he can continue this kind of form, it's going to make Genoa a much more dangerous opponent.
There was also a controversial moment when Higuain was hacked down when he was clear in on goal and not far from taking his shot with Perin seemingly at his mercy. It looked like a certain penalty and a red card for a denial of a goalscoring chance -- the so-called "last man" foul -- but head referee Daniele Doveri kept his cards in his pocket and his whistle out of his mouth, denying Napoli a chance to score from the spot.
In the end, while Napoli clearly outplayed Genoa on a whole, 0-0 was probably the fair result. They just didn't do enough in the final third to get the job done -- while Perin stopped everything that came at him, Napoli could and should have generated far more chances if not for their poor play in Genoa's end of the pitch. While you can blame the referee for not giving that penalty, if a referee's decision costs you a match like today's, then you needed to be better. It's disappointing to not finish the weekend on top of the table as we had all hoped to see, but they're still just two points out and in the thick of things.
Hopefully we can just chalk this one up as a bad day at the office and move on.
Apologies for the lack of match thread, twitter coverage, and the lateness of this recap. I was without internet starting about an hour before the match until just recently.
Genoa: Perin; Munoz (Izzo 35'), Burdisso, Ansaldo; Figueiras, Dzemaili (Ntcham 45'), Costa, Rincon (Cissokho 72'); Laxalt, Pavoletti, Perotti
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik (Lopez 82'); Callejon (Gabbiadini 67'), Higuain, Mertens (Insigne 57')