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Napoli vs. Besiktas, Champions League 2016: Final score 1-1, Unexciting, unwatchable, unenjoyable

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This was perhaps the hardest Napoli game to watch this season.

SSC Napoli v Besiktas JK - UEFA Champions League Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

Napoli salvaged a point from a bitterly disappointing match against Besiktas in Istanbul, coming away with a 1-1 draw thanks to a huge goal from captain Marek Hamsik just a few short minutes after the Turkish team took the lead. Despite the excitement of the goal, though, Napoli fans have to feel frustrated by the performance of their team on the pitch, because Napoli fell well short of expectations.

After a brief spell at the start of the match that was very open going both ways, Besiktas quickly shut up shop and started playing very negative, cynical football. They looked to pack in as many men behind the ball as they could and choke away Napoli’s scoring chances rather than playing actual football.

What made the match hard to watch, though, was that Besiktas actually did a very bad job of executing their strategy, with players poorly positioned more often than not and often responding badly to what Napoli did on the ball. But Napoli did nothing to punish them for their struggles, just going up the pitch and doing the same things over and over again, never trying to change their approach or even seem to look for the holes in Besiktas’ defense to exploit them.

Instead we got a flat, uninspiring, and uninteresting display from Napoli, one that lack any sort of spark or creation like we’re used to seeing from them even when they struggle. Worse, cracks were starting to show in the team, with some players spending most of their time on the pitch looking checked out — hi there, Manolo Gabbiadini — and others not seeming to get along, exemplified by Allan and Jorginho being seen arguing on the pitch a few minutes before Besiktas’ goal, shortly after which they were both substituted out.

The Besiktas goal came off a penalty, and a fairly soft one at that — Nikola Maksimovic was called for a handball when a cross clipped off his elbow, despite clearly trying to get his arm out of the path of the ball. But with Besiktas having just had a claim for handball waved off moments earlier, it was hard to be surprised by the call, and Besiktas leading after Ricardo Quaresma converted from the spot didn’t feel completely unjustified considering how poor Napoli had been for much of the match.

Fortunately for Napoli, Marek Hamsik was not going to settle for what he was seeing on the pitch, and took things on himself to fix it:

It was a fantastic strike from Napoli’s captain, and he made sure to make it clear just who he scored it for:

Napoli tried to find a winner with the new energy that goal gave them, but couldn’t break Besiktas down any more than they had earlier. In the end, a point on the road in the Champions League is only a good thing, especially after losing to these same opponents at home two weeks ago. But with the poor quality of Napoli’s performance on the night, it’s hard to to be extremely frustrated and concerned. Napoli need to be much, much better than this, and they need to avoid the squad fracturing like we saw signs of.

Now it’s time to get ready for a tough test against Lazio this weekend. On to the next.

Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan (Zielinski 80’), Jorginho (Diawara 80’), Hamsik; Callejon, Gabbiadini (Mertens 63’), Insigne

Goals: Hamsik (82’)

Besiktas: Fabi; Beck, Marcelo, Rhodolfo, Tosic (Cenk Tosun 24’); Hutchinson, Inler (Ozyakup 66’); Quaresma, Arslan, Correia; Aboubakar

Goals: Quaresma (78’ pen.)