A deceptively strong performance came to a bitter end for Napoli, with an early Palermo goal and a terrific goalkeeping performance seeing the match end in a 1-1 draw, ending Napoli’s winning streak and leaving them without the perfect January they were hoping for.
The match got off to an absolutely disastrous start — despite Napoli getting forward promisingly, a cheap giveaway turned into a free kick for Palermo in a dangerous area. That free kick turned into a botched setup in Napoli’s set-piece defense, and that in turn became an early goal for the visitors. It was a nightmare start, and the fact that it came off a strong of errors only helped set the tone for much of the match for Napoli.
The partenopei would dominate the ball for pretty much the entirety of the match after Palermo scored, quickly forcing the visitors into a defensive shell — but one they played effectively, thanks in part to a series of little errors from Napoli on just about every major run of possession they had. Be it poor touches, not seeing supporting runs, putting passes or crosses in the wrong place, or a bevvy of other mistakes, Napoli struggled when they tried to find that final ball to get their equalizer.
And when they did get the final ball and get a good shot off, one of two things would happen: Palermo would get a last-ditch block from a defender, or Josip Posavec would make a spectacular save to keep it out. It was an incredibly frustrating attacking performance from Napoli, with everything either being just a little bit off or when things actually worked they came to nothing because of a goalkeeper standing on his head.
It was ironic, then, that Napoli’s lone goal in the match came because of a hilariously bad error from Posavec. A shot from Dries Mertens from outside the box looked like one he would save easily, but he didn’t quite get down quickly enough, so the ball kind of squiggled through his arms, rolled through his legs, and dibbled across the goal line unimpeded.
After that, though, it was business as it had been for the rest of the game. Napoli just couldn’t get dangerous enough opportunities often enough to force another mistake, especially with substitute Leonardo Pavoletti proving unable to provide any kind of real pressure up top.
The draw is a disappointing one on so many levels — it ruins Napoli’s otherwise-perfect January, and that it came at home against a team that’s been so poor this season and in a match that they dominated the run of play so utterly, seeing it end 1-1 is just unacceptable.
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Maksimovic, Ghoulam; Allan (Zielisnki 54’), Jorginho (Pavoletti 62’), Hamsik; Callejon, Mertens, Insigne
Goals: Mertens (66’)
Palermo: Posavec; Rispoli, Gonzalez, Goldaniga (red 90’), Pezzella; Henrique, Jajalo, Chochev; Quaison (Morganella 89’), Nestorovski, Trajkovski (Aleesami 60’)
Goals: Nestorovski (6’)