Napoli needed a win in a bad way and they got one, taking Crotone down 2-1. The result wasn’t pretty thanks to a flat second half and a late goal from the hosts, but the two first-half goals from Jose Callejon and Nikola Maksimovic saw them through to three points — but the red card earned by Manolo Gabbiadini could have major consequences.
The match got off to a fairly strong start for Napoli, with Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon running rampant from the wings. The pair combined excellently on Napoli’s first goal, with Mertens ducking and weaving through Crotone’s defense before tossing in a ball that was deflected up and into Callejon’s path to hammer home. It was an excellent start — but 15 minutes later, everything threatened to fall apart.
Gabbiadini was trying to run into the box when he was taken down cynically and heavily by Gianmarco Ferrari. Instead of popping up and getting back to work, though, Gabbiadini responded by lashing out at Ferrari, and was rightfully shown a red card for his actions. It was a horrible loss of calm and control, and one that will cost Napoli dearly with a three-match suspension likely, a period which will include games against Juventus and Lazio.
Napoli took advantage of the situation, though, with a following corner kick served up well by Ivan Strinic. Kalidou Koulibaly flicked it across the face of goal, and Nikola Maksimovic was there at the far post to tap it in. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked, and it got Napoli a crucial two-goal lead before halftime despite playing a man down.
The second half was predictably dull considering that Napoli were playing with 10 men on the pitch, set up mostly to control the ball and keep Crotone from having scoring chances. Still, they gave up a soft goal late on in the match, though fortunately with little enough time left that Crotone couldn’t push for an equalizer.
The win was much-needed for Napoli, but the discipline issues in this match sting and will continue to hamper Napoli in the weeks to come. There were definite highlights -- Amadou Diawara was very good in his debut, and Nikola Maksimovic continues to improve and impress in defense — but considering the team’s struggles every negative feels all the more potent. The team’s depth and spine will be sorely tested in the coming days — hopefully it doesn’t break.
On to the next.