Napoli dropped rare points in their quest for the Serie A title as Luciano Spalletti’s leaders were held to a disappointing goalless draw by Hellas Verona at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
With Spalletti managing his squad ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Milan, fit-again striker Victor Osimhen began on the bench alongside Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.
Napoli lacked inspiration in a low-key affair and went closest after the late introduction of their star duo, Osimhen rattling the crossbar with a terrific volley.
While Napoli’s first Scudetto since 1990 appears a formality with their lead at the summit standing at 14 points, Spalletti will demand far better with their European dreams on the line next time out.
The moment @victorosimhen9 stepped back onto the pitch: pic.twitter.com/IkiWuySZHC
— Lega Serie A (@SerieA_EN) April 15, 2023
Napoli thought they had the lead when Matteo Politano’s drive deflected in after 20 minutes, but the goal was ruled out due to the offside Mathias Olivera interfering with the play.
Alex Meret was forced to push a rasping long-range strike from Kevin Lasagna away as the break approached, with the depleted hosts struggling to create during a flat opening period.
Napoli skipper Giovanni Di Lorenzo nodded narrowly wide from Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s cross 56 minutes in, before Giacomo Raspadori sent a prodded effort off-target.
Spalletti introduced Kvaratskhelia and Osimhen – the latter for his first club appearance in almost a month – as Napoli grew more desperate, but the relegation-threatened visitors continued to stand firm.
Osimhen almost enjoyed a dream return when he struck a fierce volley from the edge of the area with eight minutes left, but his strike crashed off the woodwork and away as Verona held on – even missing a glorious chance to snatch the win when Cyril Ngonge shot wide from a rapid break.
What does it mean? Napoli’s momentum stalling
A few weeks ago, Napoli were sweeping aside all before them and being discussed as genuine contenders for a dream Serie A and Champions League double.
While the Scudetto will surely return to Naples for the first time since the Diego Maradona era, Spalletti’s side have certainly seen their progress slow recently – and it could cost them a place in the Champions League semi-finals.
Napoli have now failed to win three of their last four games across all competitions. Another slip-up on Tuesday will see their European campaign cut short.
Osimhen’s return welcome
Osimhen was conspicuous by his absence in Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Milan, with the Nigeria international having been sidelined by a groin injury he sustained last month.
The striker spent just over 20 minutes on the pitch here, but no Napoli player managed more than his five touches in the Verona area – Spalletti needs his talisman to return to top form quickly.
Struggling Verona show fight
Napoli entered Saturday’s game having scored a league-high 66 goals in 29 Serie A outings this term, but they only registered one shot on target during a poor display.
That fact owed much to a terrific defensive effort from Verona, though they may live to regret Ngonge’s late miss as they remain three points adrift of safety.
Napoli host Milan in the all-important second leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie on Tuesday, while Verona are next in action at home to Bologna in Serie A on Friday.
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