On a return to Serie A action after the international break in a ground where the azzurri hadn’t won in nine years, with heavy rain, a less than perfect pitch, players suffering from flu and without Arkadiusz Milik and Manolo Gabbiadini, Napoli somehow against the odds came out 2-1 winners thanks to a second half brace from Lorenzo Insigne.
Maurizio Sarri kept with the 4-3-3 and Dries Mertens as a false nine and once again it did not work particularly well. The first half saw Napoli sloppy in midfield, rusty in attack and lackluster in defense, leading to Udinese having all the early chances. Emmanuel Badu headed safely into Pepe Reina’s hands, soon after Reina had to come out and make a big save one on one against Duvan Zapata after the Colombian danced his way past a lead foot Vlad Chiriches meanwhile Ryder Matos made Ghoulam answer a lot of questions his body didn’t seem able to comprehend. Kalidou Koulibaly was immense in defense and won everyone of his individual battles with Zapata and whichever Udinese player was brave enough to stray into his territory.
Amadou Diawara was the only other shining light in a dimly lit opening half; the teenager is rapidly becoming an integral part of the Napoli midfield and has had rumors of a transfer fee of 50 million talked about. Last year’s midfield dynamo Allan huffed and puffed but just doesn’t look as fit or as sharp as he was at the beginning of last season, nor does Elseid Hysaj who had a poor first half. He would redeem himself somewhat in he second with a cross into the box that found Insigne for his second goal.
Napoli’s first real attack came in the 34th minute when Mertens took a scuffed shot that bounced harmlessly out wide. The teams went into to half time break with Udinese the happier of the two thanks to the poor showing from their guests.
Soon after the restart Lorenzo Insigne scored his first goal since April. Napoli began the second half with a bit more hunger and drive than they had in the first. A few short passes while camped around the edge of the Udinese box saw Allan pass into Mertens, who found Callejon out wide, he crossed into an unmarked Insigne who side footed it into the roof of the net. That was on 46:28’, on 47:52’ he hit the crossbar from a dipping shot just outside the box that keeper Karnezis got a fingertip to. Less than 8 minutes later he missed a sitter that would have put Napoli 2-0 up and 1 minute after that he did in fact put them 2 goals up. A hopeful cross into the Udinese area was made a mess of by Widmer and Insigne pounced.
Napoli now looked good for the win and appeared to be in cruise control until Captain Marek Hamsik tried to be too cute in heading back a pass that ran out for a corner. From the resulting set piece where Napoli seemed to have had an abundance of bodies in the area Stipe Perica made a run unopposed, jumped highest and headed into the far post past a stranded Reina. Napoli’s zonal marking caught napping yet again.
Diawara fired inches wide with a low shot from around 25 yards out, then Mertens drove forward with the ball from the half way line and forced a decent save from Karnezis., while Ghoulam came closed to scoring from a corner in what was probably a miss-hit cross. Sarri threw on Giaccherini for Insigne and El Kaddouri for Mertens and the two subs nearly combined for a chance for a third goal.
All in all a it was a good win and an unexpected 3 points after the first half display and there was finally some luck in front of goal for Insigne but again Sarri’s substitutions were a bit too similar to subs made in previous games to actually freshen up the midfield and attack and help see out the game.
Udinese: Karnezis; Widmer, Danilo, Wague, Felipe; Fofana, Kums (Jankto 74’), Badu; Matos (Perica 53’), Duvan Zapata (De Paul 80’), Thereau
Goal: Perica (59’)
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Chiriches, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Diawara, Hamsik (Zielinski 72’); Callejon, Mertens (El Kaddouri 88’), Insigne (Giaccherini 79’)
Goals: Insigne (47’, 57’)