Thirty-one goals were scored in 10 Serie A fixtures this weekend. The Napoli-Udinese game was a key contributor to that number. The match finished 3-3 on Saturday at the Stadio San Paolo, with plenty of twists and turns throughout the game.
Bruno Fernandes and Allan mustered the first quality chances for the visitors, but both shots were blocked by Napoli goalkeeper Rafael Cabral. The Brazilian, who arrived from Santos last summer, played his first match for the club as he replaced an injured Pepe Reina.
Rafael would come up big yet again after 27 minutes when a shot from Blerim Dzemaili was deflected. The keeper was quick to react and save the ball out for a corner.
Napoli boss Rafael Benitez witnessed several opportunities for his squad, but somehow they never found the end product. Eventually, they capitalized in the 38th minute where Lorenzo Insigne sent a corner into the box. After some confusion, Goran Pandev got on the ball and scored from close range.
Shortly after, the Macedonian was on the spot again. Receiving the ball from Gonzalo Higuian with his back towards goal, Pandev made a smart turn before earning his brace.
Just before half-time, Udinese were handed a lifeline. Off a corner, Thomas Heurtaux headed the ball towards goal before Federico Fernandez and Maurizio Domizzi hit it simultaneously to put it past Rafael. The goal went down as an own goal by Fernandez.
In the second half, Napoli took control of the match and had several fine opportunities inside the first 15 minutes. However, for Udinese, the absence of Antonio Di Natale and Luis Muriel became increasingly evident. Needing a goal, Francesco Guidolin saw it necessary to make an offensive change. Maicosuel replaced Heurtaux, a defender.
Udinese would see a quick result of the change when Fernandes found himself in a good position and hit an amazing shot that gave Rafael no chance. The joy didn’t last long for the Zebrette however, as Dzemaili fired back shortly after to put the home side in front 3-2.
Just a minute later, the substitute Maicosuel nearly leveled the affair again, but Rafael managed to block the shot. The Zebrette did get their third goal though eight minutes later when Dusan Basta gave Napoli a case of déjà vu and buried the ball from close range off a corner.
Udinese nearly won it through Maicosuel. The Brazilian received a through ball to give him a good chance, but Christian Maggio slid in with a great tackle in a situation where Guidolin appealed for a red card for the Partenopei captain. After a heated argument with the fourth official, the Zebrette coach was sent to the stands.
Napoli then pressed for the winner, but they too were unlucky in their quest. Thanks to those dropped points, last year’s runners-up are now eight points adrift of Juventus for top of the table. In fact, they’re closer to the Europa League than they are to the Scudetto. As for Udinese, they’ve lost just three in their last four matches and are starting to make a serious push up the table.
Watch the highlights here:
Other talking points
- Inter and Parma replicated Saturday’s score, as they drew 3-3 on Sunday evening. Rodrigo Palacio had a brace in the match. The Argentine has now bagged nine goals in his last eight appearances. Nicola Sansone scored twice for Parma, with Azzurri hopeful Marco Parolo getting the other. The Nerazzurri remain four points behind third place.
- Juventus maintained their lead at the top with a 2-0 victory over Bologna on Friday. Since their 4-2 defeat to Fiorentina, the Bianconeri have won seven matches in a row, without conceding a single goal. It’s safe to say that they’re now back on track.
- Roma edged out Fiorentina 2-1 to break a four match winless streak. The positive is that they remain undefeated and are still three points behind Juve. Mattia Destro scored in his return, but things nearly turned sour when Miralem Pjanic earned his second booking with four minutes left. Thankfully, the Giallorossi held on.
- Livorno earned a point against AC Milan at home on Saturday. Had it not been for a Mario Balotelli free kick, Milan would’ve realistically gone back to the San Siro with zero points. The Rossoneri have recorded just one victory in their last seven. Their four wins in Serie A is level with the likes of Chievo, Cagliari, and Parma. Not exactly impressive for a club of that size.
- Sampdoria picked up their first win under Sinisa Mihajlovic, defeating relegation candidate Catania 2-0. The Rossazzurri remain bottom of the league, five points away from safety.
Cagliari 2-1 Genoa; Hellas Verona 2-1 Atalanta; Sassuolo 0-1 Chievo; Torino 1-0 Lazio
Watch the Inter-Parma match highlights here: