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Napoli fall 2-1 to Atlético Madrid in Audi Cup opener

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Napoli will face the loser of the Bayern Munich-Liverpool match.

Audi Cup 2017 Press Conference Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images For AUDI

Napoli struck first in the Audi Cup against Atlético Madrid, but couldn’t keep up the momentum and gave up two late goals to fall 2-1 in the first match of the Audi Cup.

The first half was goalless, but Napoli edged out the run of play with some solid possession and numerous good chances created, though a missed penalty by Arkadiusz Milik kept Napoli from getting the lead they arguably deserved out of that half. They got their goal early in the second half when Jose Callejon fired in a volley off a cross from Faouzi Ghoulam, but that would be the end of the celebrating from Napoli in this match.

Atlético would score twice in the span of ten minutes, first from Fernando Torres in the 72nd minute, then from Luciano Vietto in the 81st. Neither goal was particularly egregious for Napoli to give up — Torres sent Reina the wrong way with an off-balance backheel, and Vietto got a far-post tap in from a weird deflection on a corner — and given the friendly nature of the competition and the fact that both teams were essentially playing at half speed, it’s hard to be too upset with the result given how well-controlled Napoli’s starting 11 were during the match.

One player who lacked control, however, was Atlético Madrid defender Diego Godin, who was sent off in the 89th minute after making a pair of rash tackles just a few minutes apart from one another. The first was a high boot into the chest of Dries Mertens that likely would have been a red in a competitive match, but the German referee likely regretted his leniency when Godin sent Ounas to the training room in pain at the whistle when he made a very late, very rash challenge on the touchline that left trainers concerned about the youngster’s ankle.

Godin’s idiocy aside — he was so unapologetic that he even refused to get off the pitch after being sent off, with Pepe Reina having to come over to get him to the sideline — Napoli’s performance was an overall positive despite the loss. Their starting lineup wasn’t 100% a first-choice team given that they play again in 24 hours, but they did a good job of controlling the match against a very good Atlético side and minimizing their opportunities off the counter attack. Things didn’t start looking shaky at all until the traditional mass-substitutions of a friendly kicked in, with both Atléti goals coming during the settling-in period a few minutes after each group of changes.

Napoli’s ability to play so well against a top side is a good sign of how the team’s preparations for the season are progressing, and we’ll see on Wednesday against Liverpool or Bayern how well they deal with a fast turnaround. Another solid performance, and it will certainly start to look as though Napoli are ready for their Champions League playoff tie later this month.