A close-fought match saw Napoli hold Porto to a 0-0 draw on the road, closing out their pre-season schedule with a largely impressive performance.
The match started off fairly evenly with possession running back and forth and a couple half-chances for each side. Porto wound up forced to make two first-half substitutions for injuries, first when Yacine Brahimi pulled up out of a run holding his groin, and later on when Aly Cissokho broke down about ten minutes after sliding hard into Porto's bench -- the second player to do so after Christian Maggio did the same earlier in the half.
In the end, the match worked out in a largely predictable manner -- Porto dominated possession, as they do because they're Porto, but high-quality chances were hard to come by. Napoli's best all came through Lorenzo Insigne, and Porto's largely though Vincent Aboubakar, but no one was ever able to beat any of the four goalkeepers who played in the match.
Instead of going into deep detail over a friendly, lets instead look at how the team played.
Lorenzo Insigne -- Napoli's diminutive trequartista continued to look as though he was born to play the role, rather than someone who's only been there about a month. He finds spaces behind and between the strikers very naturally, using his quickness and deft touch to create scoring chances easily. His finish couldn't beat Iker Casillas in the first half, but he was still arguably Napoli's best player for much of the match.
Vlad Chiriches -- The new boy defender was rock-solid in his first start in a partenopei shirt. He synced up very well with his teammates, moved around to cover gaps in the line expertly, and showed solid technique when called upon to break up plays. It's early days, but Chiriches looks very comfortable in the side already, and it looks more and more like his issues at Tottenham last year were largely down to just being a poor fit for a new manager.
The overall progress -- While Napoli's attack wasn't quite as threatening today, they were facing a much better defense than what Nice brought to bear. They still looked wonderfully fluid and effective, however, and once they really get rolling, they could be a treat to watch. The impressive bits, though, are in midfield and defense. The trio of Hamsik, Valdifiori, and Allan was hugely impressive to watch in the first half, working together as though they had been for years, not for the first time ever in a match. The defense was also much improved, with very few systemic errors made, and all quickly recovered from. While the scoreline didn't show it, Napoli took a big step forward in their preparation compared to their last match.
That stadium feed -- Seriously what on earth was that? There were long periods of the match that looked like the feed had dropped acid. At first I thought it was just my feed, but eventually the station threw up a "we apologize for the problems with our stadium feed" scroller on the bottom of the screen.
The Porto away shirts -- I've been on the fence about Porto's brown away shirts, liking the boldness of going with a "different" color, but uncertain as to the quality of the design itself. Now that I've seen it in action, I've decided: it's @#$&ing awful. At least for watching matches on TV. On wide shots, you can barely see their players because they blend into the pitch.
Manolo Gabbiadini -- After looking excellent against Nice last week, Gabbiadini looked painfully mediocre against Porto. He found space in the defense well, which is good, but rarely did much of anything effective when he was actually on the ball. After the hissy fit his agent threw earlier in the week, this wasn't a good response from the Italian striker.
The Mixed Bags
Elseid Hysaj -- Hysaj had a largely solid match at left back, shutting Cristian Tello completely down, and joining the attack well -- but he also struggled with the higher quality of Yacine Brahimi early in the match, and got turned inside-out by Maxi Pereira a few times as well. He's better on the right and is still adapting to his new team, so hopefully those moments were a blip, but we'll be hoping to see better from him soon.
Jose Callejon -- Ziggy really struggled when he first came on, not meshing well with Gabbiadini in attack at all. Too often he tried to make the same runs or occupy the same spaces as Manolo, which doesn't work well at all in attack. He was better once Gonzalo Higuain came on, as Pocho's different approach let Callejon play his game without duplicating anything his partner did, but even then his performance wasn't quite up to par.
Jorginho -- The Brazilian midfielder sent in some nice through balls after coming on for Valdifiori an hour into the match, but outside of that he was still too slow on the ball -- not in terms of his pace or physical speed, but in his actions and decision-making. He also struggled off the ball, both in making himself available for outlet passes for the defense and midfield, and in defending against Porto. He was better today overall than against Nice, but he still wasn't good on a whole.
Napoli: Pepe Reina (Rafael Cabral 78'); Christian Maggio (Faouzi Ghoulam 78'), Vlad Chiriches, Raul Albiol (Kalidou Koulibaly 72'), Elseid Hysaj (Henrique 85'); Allan (Gokhan Inler 78'), Mirko Valdifiori (Jorginho 59'), Marek Hamsik (David Lopez 46'); Lorenzo Insigne (Omar El Kaddouri 72'); Dries Mertens (Jose Callejon 46'), Manolo Gabbiadini (Gonzalo Higuain 59')
FC Porto: Iker Casillas (Helton 46'); Maxi Pereira (Ricardo Pereira 63'), Maicon, Ivan Marcano (Bruno Martins Indi 46'), Aly Cissokho (Jose Angel 40'); Ruben Neves (Danilo Pereira 46'), Hector Herrera (Andre Andre 46'), Giannelli Imbula (Sergio Oliveira 63'); Silvestre Varela (Alberto Bueno 46'), Vincent Aboubakar (Dani Osvaldo 63'), Yacine Brahimi (Cristian Tello 18', Hernâni 72')