San Paolo stadium hosted the Serie A 26th-round’s curtain-dropper between Napoli and AC Milan in a game that offered a lot of excitement for the crowd in Naples.
An openly-contested affair ended in a 1-1 stalemate with the general impression that hosts will be the side ruing their missed opportunities to clinch a win and reclaim the leading position in the Serie A standings.
As the match ended in a draw we take a look at five things we learned from the Monday match-up:
The hosts have been faced with a wonderful opportunity to turn Juventus’ Friday slip-up against Bologna into their advantage and get back on top of the Serie A ladder against AC Milan.
Despite being the more dominant side throughout the proceedings, Partenopei fell short at their own expense as the team once again displayed a nervous and anxious performance.
Napoli have long been waiting for the Serie A title and as the pressure grows Maurizio Sarri’s men will need to step up and show maturity in order to bring the Scudetto back to the south of Italy after 26 years and build up on Maradona’s heritage.
Napoli created ten goal chances in the first half alone. Sarri’s charges have fired 19 shots to AC Milan’s seven during the entire 90 minutes and have dominated the proceedings with the possession of 60% on their side.
Back-to-back defeats to Juventus and Villarreal were tonight followed by a frustrating draw, which is a clear indicator of pressure taking its toll on the players.
Inconsistent and Immature AC Milan
Sinisa Mihajlovic has done a great job with his squad.
Faced with a limited budget, limited resources and limited squad, the Serbian tactician has done the best possible work despite the high expectations from his superiors.
AC Milan are a side without world-class footballers and a team that lacks true leadership on the pitch. Having spent just a couple of months under their new manager, Rossonerri have still been able to adopt Mihajlovic’s fighting spirit, which emerged from all the inconsistency and immaturity of the squad.
With their last defeat coming at the beginning of 2016, AC Milan have now gone nine matches without a defeat in all competitions.
Still four points adrift of their city rivals Inter in fifth spot, AC Milan will have to build up on their well-organized defences and improve their finish.
However, coming to hostile environment such as San Paolo, AC Milan will surely have been satisfied with the hard-fought point.
Kolibaly the world-class defender
Defences once again took the centre stage in the game against Napoli and AC Milan.
As the visitors defended hard with all the resources available, and with their back four fully occupied, Napoli have relied mostly on one man tonight.
Kalidou Koulibaly has put in an impressive display against AC Milan, which has been overshadowed by an error leading to AC Milan’s goal. Still, his overall performance was nothing short of impressive as the 24-year-old Senegal defender was everywhere on the pitch, stopping AC Milan’s attacks in the root.
Three headed clearances, passing success rate of over 80% and countless tackles have made him an impenetrable tower.
Fan favourite for his heart-on-the-sleeve displays, Koulibaly has caught the eye of many clubs, and even French manager Didier Deschamps who made a gaff by stating he is considering calling up Napoli defender – who is a Senegal international.
Born in France, Koulibaly has already represented Senegal and is ineligible for France.
Impressive Trio: Callejon – Higuain – Insigne
Napoli are boasting one of the most prolific attacking trios in the league, and in Europe.
Callejon, Higuain and Insigne have shared 40 goals between them, which is the majority of the club’s 54 this season in the Serie A.
Gonzalo Higuain has scored 24 goals in 26 appearances and he was selflessly aided by Callejon with five and Lorenzo Insigne, who scored his 11th goal of the season.
Maurizio Sarri has forged a fantastic attacking unit, which keeps terrorizing the opposing defences with their impressive pace, dribbles, run-ins and powerful shots.
Their replacements have been equally impressive throughout the season and against AC Milan, with Dries Mertens taking centre stage as a sub. He had a fantastic chance in the closing stages of the game but his fantastic effort hit the post of Donnarumma’s goal.
Serie A title wide open
With the leading duo separated by only one point with 26 rounds behind us, Serie A title still remains wide open.
One of the most exciting seasons keeps going with Juventus and Napoli leading the line, while Fiorentina will still be waiting for their chance to get back in the chase.
Viola are six points behind Juventus, but with plenty of games still on the schedule, no one can rule them out for sure.
One thing is for sure, the remainder of the Serie A 2015-16 season will lack no excitement.
NAPOLI: Reina 6.5 – Hysaj 6.5, Albiol 7, Koulibaly 7.5, Ghoulam 7 – Allan 6.5 (Gabbiadini 6), Jorginho 7, Hamsik 6 – Callejon 6.5 (Mertens 6.5), Higuain, Insigne 7 (El Kaddouri 6).
Unused subs: Rafael, Chalobah, Chiriches, Gabriel, Lopez, Maggio, Regini, Strinic, Valdifiori.
AC MILAN: Donnarumma 6.5 – Abate 7.5, Alex 6.5, Zapata 7, Antonelli 7 – Honda 7, Montolivo 6 (Bertolacci 6), Kucka 7, Bonaventura 7.5 – Niang 6.5 (Balotelli 6), Bacca 6.5 (Menez 6).
Unused subs: Abbiati, Boateng, Calabria, De Sciglio, Livieri, Mauri, Poli, Romagnoli, Simic.
REFEREE: Luca Banti