Napoli's players and staff were left frustrated after Sunday's match, not just because of the team's performance on the pitch, but also for the referee's decision-making in several key incidents and allowance of Atalanta's timewasting late in the match.
Giampaolo Calvarese was the man in charge of officiating the match, and he and his crew first angered Napoli when partenopei players and staff felt that Mauricio Pinilla had fouled Henrique when he nipped the ball off the Brazilian defender and left him spinning around in confusion before blowing past Mariano Andujar to score. Obviously Calvarese and company felt differently, and allowed the goal to stand.
"It is very difficult to referee with only six officials," Napoli manager Rafa Benitez quipped sarcastically after the match, referring to the extra referee that Serie A keeps by each goal to help make calls in those areas. "Clearly they need extra ones on either side of the goal so they might actually see the incidents."
The club's official Twitter account was far less kind, saying that results like this "falsified" the league standings and damaged the credibility of the league and the President of the FIGC. To be bluntly honest, it was a shocking statement to be published directly by the team, and smacked of emotion overriding professionalism, especially as the Tweets were written mere minutes after the final whistle.
As for Benitez, he wasn't just upset about the goal incident. Late in the match with Napoli chasing for an equalizer, Atalanta started timewasting in a big way, and Calvarese let it go, time after time, despite Atalanta's deliberate flaunting of the rules. It was most glaringly obvious on goal kicks -- the rules dictate a keeper must place the ball within a reasonably short amount of time, and then kick it within six seconds. On Sunday, Marco Sportiello continuously took his sweet time putting the ball down, and would take thirty or forty seconds before running up to send it up the pitch. It was ridiculous and flagrant, and Calvarese just didn't care.
Benitez wasn't amused. "We are a team who want to play football," he told the press. "But I’ve seen a lot of time-wasting [today] and I’d call it something else..."
As for his sending off, it seemed to come after Benitez had a series of verbal exchanges with Calvarese and the fourth officials late in the match, likely over the Henrique foul and timewasting. It didn't take long for the referee to decide that he'd heard enough, and sent Rafa back to the dressing room, the first dismissal of his managerial career.
"I had never been shown a yellow card for dissent in all of my life, so it seemed frankly strange to be sent off," Rafa mused. "After more than 600 games if I had not received a booking, it means if I got that angry then there was a reason.
"Losing a game against a team with 10 men for an incident like that was not a football incident. All I can say is they must not have said it. It can happen."
It wasn't a great moment for Benitez, but the whole match was full of not-great moments for Napoli. All we can hope for is better refereeing in future matches. After how poor Calvarese was on Sunday, that won't be hard.