Napoli couldn’t find a way to break down a Genoa side that defended excellently, muddling their way to a 0-0 draw. Pepe Reina wound up having to make two big saves near the end of the match to preserve the draw, and sadly the result means that Napoli are no longer atop Serie A.
Genoa came out executing a gameplan focused specifically on disrupting how Napoli play the game. It wasn’t the usual passive bunker-and-counter that we see in Serie A — rather it was a very proactive and aggressive approach, looking to cut off passing lanes, marking Jorginho out of the match to hurt their possession buildup, and making it hard for Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon to cut inside to support Arkadiusz Milik.
And you know what? It worked. It worked quite well. Napoli didn’t play badly by any means — Marek Hamsik and Kalidou Koulibaly were both particularly good, actually — but Genoa’s gameplan was so effective that Napoli just couldn’t execute their gameplan with any efficiency.
Of course, Genoa had to take advantage of their success by scoring a goal of their own, and that proved easier said than done. Remember that note about Koulibaly playing well? He kept both Lucas Ocampos and Leonardo Pavoletti locked down almost on his own, and when Pavoletti pulled up with a hamstring injury after Callejon knicked the ball off him on a counter — an impressive bit of play from the Spaniard — Koulibaly instantly put Giovanni Simeone on lockdown as well.
The second half saw Genoa turn from guile to a bit more force in their defensive efforts, with a number of hard fouls punctuating Napoli’s efforts to get forward. Napoli countered by bringing a lot of energy off the bench in the form of Lorenzo Insigne and Piotr Zielinski, though not before being robbed of an apparent penalty.
Arkadiusz Milik had raced into the box on the ball before being apparently clipped down by a desperation challenge from partly behind him by Lucas Orban, a challenge that would have seen the Genoa defender earn a second yellow card. Referee Antonio Damato elected to turn away, though, not awarding the penalty or putting Genoa down a man as the situation seemed to warrant.
That didn’t stop Napoli from continuing to chase a goal, though, and they were clearly the better attacking side in the final parts of the match. Genoa’s ever-more-compact defense as the minutes waned kept them at bay, though, and they actually had two very good chances late in the match that Pepe Reina had to do well to save.
In the end, Napoli couldn’t do enough to find the goal they needed. That means they’ve been knocked from the top of the table, but that’s not too big a deal — they still have 11 points after five matches and are one behind Juventus. That’s a solid pace so far, and it’s not like Napoli played badly. They just lacked the energy to break down a solid gameplan, which isn’t that shocking for a midweek road match. They’ll be better in the future, and they certainly could have been a lot worse.
On to the next.
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan (Zielinski 73’), Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejon, Milik (Gabbiadini 82’), Mertens (Insigne 68’)
Genoa: Perin; Izzo, Burdisso, Orban; Lazovic (Muñoz 78’), Rincon, Rigoni, Laxalt; Ntcham, Pavoletti (Simeone 31’), Ocampos (Edenilson 87’)