Napoli came away 1-0 winners over Carpi at the San Paolo in Serie A action on Sunday, but fans can't help but feel that Napoli could and should have performed better on a whole during the match. Thanks to missed chances and bad refereeing decisions, it took a late penalty for Gonzalo Higuain to give Napoli the lead they needed, letting thepartenopei scrape their way to three points over a relegation-threatened side instead of properly thumping them like we would have hoped.
The match had a bizarre tone almost right away, with strange mistakes made by both teams, and early injury for Carpi, and what looked like a stonewall penalty for Napoli not even waved away by referee Daniele Doveri, but outright ignored instead.
Both sides started looking frustrated shortly after -- Carpi by their inability to get their attack moving in any meaningful way, and Napoli for not being able to take advantage of the opportunities they created. Napoli were incredibly wasteful early on, with Jose Callejon and Gonzalo Higuain hammering away with seven of Napoli's eleven first-half shots -- only two of which were actually on target.
It looked like all that wastefulness had changed, though, when in the 29th minute Callejon found the back of the net with an excellent shot, only for the goal to be ruled out because Ziggy was judged to be offside. The cries of Aurelio De Laurentiis to implement a replay system will be all the louder for that call, though, because replays clearly showed Callejon to be at least half a stride onside.
The horror show that was the referee's performance continued in the second half, though it actually benefited Napoli. Carpi midfielder Raffaele Bianco had picked up a yellow card right at the end of the first half, and in the 56th minute Doveri adjudged him to have harshly fouled Lorenzo Insigne and showed him a second yellow -- despite not actually having touched Insigne. That put Carpi in the lurch, and it was just 13 minutes later that Napoli earned a penalty after a corner, and Higuain converted it with ease to give himself 24 goals in 24 matches, and to equal Diego Maradona's club record for scoring in six straight league matches.
That would be that in terms of game action, more or less. Napoli only got four more shots away after scoring, instead relying on their impressive defense to continue stymieing Carpi's efforts to get forward. Carpi would get up on the counter fairly regularly, but between Allan, Faouzi Ghoulam, Elseid Hysaj, and most especially Kalidou Koulibaly, those counters never came to anything dangerous. In fact, Napoli's defense was so good, again especially Koulibaly, that Carpi only got two shots away all game long, and neither troubled Pepe Reina's goal at all. That's a damn good defensive shift.
It still would have been nice to see a better attacking performance, though. For all that Carpi spent most of the game bunkering and trying to prevent giving up scoring chances, Napoli had plenty of them. They just didn't do well enough in front of goal to take advantage of them, so what could and should have wound up as a 4-0 or 5-0 win instead was a 1-0 victory that relied on a penalty. Such is life.
Still, despite a not-great-by-their-standards performance from Napoli, they've won a club record eight straight Serie A matches and maintain their two-point lead over Juventus in the table. That lead is vital with a trip to Turin on the cards next weekend to face the bianconeri in a match that will surely prove to be of great importance at the end of the season. Let's just hope for an improve performance on Saturday.
On to the next, and screw the haters.
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Valdifiori, Hamsik; Callejon (Mertens 62'), Higuain (Gabbiadini 82'), Insigne (El Kaddouri 85')
Goal: Higuain (pen. 69')
Carpi: Belec; Letizia, Romagnoli, Poli (Daprela 60'); Pasciuti (Zaccardo 12'), Crimi, Bianco (red 56'), Martinho, Sabelli; Mancosu (Verdi 79'), Lasagna