Napoli fell flat in a scoreless draw with Inter Milan on Sunday, dropping their first points in Serie A this season and seeing their perfect start to the season end against the second-place team in the league at a time when they could have added much-needed points to their lead.
The first half was almost completely dominated by Napoli, who passed Inter almost completely off the park for long stretches of the opening 45 minutes. They came away with little to show for it though, as their best two chances — a thunderbolt shot from Jose Callejon and a jaw-dropping pass from Marek Hamsik turned in by Lorenzo Insigne — were both saved excellently by Samir Handanovic in Inter Milan’s goal.
That slight disappointment of not going into the half with a lead was only amplified when Callejon slid over the ball awkwardly late in the half and seemed to take a knock to his knee in the process, an injury that left him struggling in the closing moments of the half and then requiring treatment on the pitch before he could go back to the dressing room.
Callejon would stay on the pitch in the second half, but his impact on the match would notably decrease, struggling to get past Inter left back Yuto Nagatomo and seeming to not quite have his full burst of pace available to him, much like Lorenzo Insigne throughout the match after the diminutive forward suffered a thigh injury at midweek.
Those slowdowns coupled with Martin Skirinar doing a good job of keeping Dries Mertens under wraps meant that Napoli struggled to break down Inter’s defense as they did earlier in the match, and Napoli didn’t get the same quality of scoring chances that they did in the first half. In fact, you could argue that Inter had the better chances to break the deadlock in the second half, though fortunately Napoli’s defense was up to the task — if a bit desperately so at times. Napoli did have one fantastic chance to score right at the end of of the match, but another brilliant save from Handanovic at point-blank range kept the match scoreless.
It’s disappointing to see Napoli’s perfect start to the season end like this, because they just didn’t seem to play at their best at any point in the match. They were clearly the better team for most of the match, but they weren’t good enough to get the points they needed, and for the second straight important match, they didn’t play anywhere near to their ability. Hopefully the issues that plagued them in this match and against Manchester City can be ironed out soon, because they don’t have the kind of safety net to let it last very long.
On to the next.
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan (Rog 76’), Jorginho, Hamsik (Zielinski 72’); Callejon, Mertens, Insigne (Ounas 81’)
Inter Milan: Handanovic; D’AMbrosio, Skirinar, Miranda, Nagatomo; Vecino, Gagliardini; Candreva, Valero (Mario 71’), Perisic; Icardi (Eder 87’)