After Besiktas' thrilling comeback against Benfica from three goals down that left the group still up for grabs, Napoli went searching for the win against Dynamo Kyiv that would put them in the driving seat in their Champions League group — but failed to meet any expectations in a scoreless draw.
Maurizio Sarri’s men came out of the blocks fast with what seemed in the beginning the right attitude and tried some neat passing movements that almost lead to some clear scoring opportunities. But either Lorenzo Insigne was caught a half yard offside or Dries Mertens just couldn’t get to the ball before the keeper on a couple of occasions. For the first 20 minutes Napoli were dominant piling on the pressure and playing the game in Dynamo’s half, that was until the moment Insigne ran onto a through ball that should have seen him one on one with the keeper but somehow he caught the tip of his boot in the turf and end up face first in the grass. That embarrassing trip seemed to have sucked the confidence out of Insigne an the rest of the team, who then relaxed their initial drive and became somewhat deflated.
The Azzurri kept huffing and puffing for their goal but the majority of through balls and crosses were over hit, under sold or ended up cut out by the central defensive pair of Vida and Khacheridi, who won every header unsurprisingly against Merten’s and Insigne. The Belgian once again proved that he is neither a false nor a true number nine, he doesn’t have the pace, height, strength or the experience of playing as center forward. He is sorely missed on the wing though where his ability to beat a man and overload the attacking positions leading to numerical advantages is needed for whoever else would play as striker to find himself space. Insigne has his own existential problems it seems, cracking under the pressure of his hometown team meanwhile Callejon plods away without showing any real attacking penetration and cannot touch the ball any more than 3 times before he loses it.
In the second half things didn’t get any better, what we were forced to witnessed was an unwanted seminar on how not to take a corner, 17 corners in all Napoli had and not one of them led to a proper goal scoring opportunity. More over hit crosses and backward passes followed by weak shots that were fired harmlessly into the arms of Rudko. Only a powerful drive from Hamsik forced the keeper into one decent save to push it out for a corner. Corners, corners, the Napoli fan is now haunted by corners, does it make sense for 1.88 meter tall Left Back Faouzi Ghoulam to be taking the corners and not be in the box to try get on the end of one, when instead 1.63 m Lorenzo Insigne and 1.69 m Dries Mertens are??
Manolo Gabbiadini came on for the hapless Insigne and showed a bit more grit and determination than his previous outings unlucky for him the rest of the Napoli players had subconsciously or maybe consciously decided that the draw and the point would do.
Two more pointless substitutions followed in Allan for Zielinski and Giaccherini for Mertens, Both players proceeded to slip and fall and then give the ball away.
Pepe Reina who had had nothing to do during the game except kick the ball came out to collect a cross on the 84th minute but dropped it nearly offering a goal on a plate and the 3 points to Dynamo.
After the match Coach Maurizio Sarri had this to say, summing up the attitude of the players and himself. Some would say that the manager’s job should be to prepare his team to focus on the match at hand and not be swayed by things outside their control.
“It makes no difference. With a win or draw tonight, the situation would’ve been the same, we’d need a point at all costs in Lisbon,” said the Coach in his Press conference after a goalless stalemate.
“I think this ultimately made a big difference to our performance. In the warm-up Benfica were winning 3-0 and we knew a victory would get us through tonight. When we went out for the start of the match, they had equalised 3-3.
“In the final 10 minutes it felt more like the team was playing not to lose. We need to grow in terms of mentality, we’re not accustomed to this level, but that late Besiktas equaliser really threw a bucket of cold water over our enthusiasm.”
(Translated quote courtesy of Football Italia)
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Zielinski (Allan 78‘), Diawara, Hamsik; Callejon, Mertens (Giaccherini 86’), Insigne (Gabbiadini 66’)
Dynamo: Rudko; Morozyuk, Khacheridi, Vida, Makarenko; Rybalka; Yarmolenko, Sydorchuk (Orikhovskiy 67’), Garmash, Tsygankov (Gonzalez 60’); Besedin (Moraes 81’)