Sunday’s game between Napoli and Inter was billed as a revenge match for the managers. Rafa Benitez left the club by mutual consent back in December 2010. Walter Mazzarri jumped ship to the Nerazzurri when offered the vacant position. Mazzarri received loud jeers from the San Paolo faithful on his return, fueling the already large fire pre-game.
Both teams are two of the most entertaining ones to watch in Serie, but have several problems at the back. Inter’s 34 goals ranked top of the league heading into the weekend, while Napoli’s 31 was tied for second. They conceded 17 goals each, which was third best, but could have been much worse if their opponents capitalized on their mistakes.
After just nine minutes, Gonzalo Higuain volleyed a left-footed rocket into the Inter goal to open the scoring. The strike came after Yuto Nagatomo failed to clear a ball from Gokhan Inler.
Esteban Cambiasso made amends just before halftime from a Fredy Guarin cross for Inter.
Dries Mertens reclaimed the lead for the home side only two minutes later after Blerim Dzemaili charged forward on a counter attack, held off Andrea Ranocchia and left the ball for the Belgian to curve one past goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.
Dzemaili then added Napoli’s third in the first half, capitalizing on Handanovic’s failure to handle a Mertens shot. However, Inter got back into the match just before the first half whistle when Rafael fumbled a Guarin low pass right into the path of Nagatomo, who nullified his early error.
Inter dominated possession and controlled the midfield but simply couldn’t contain Napoli’s pace on the counter. Both sides failed to produce particularly free flowing football, there was acres of space leading to the five-goal first half.
Another reason for the high scoring were the individual mistakes. Even Handanovic, who rarely flubs anything, was on the wrong end of a horrendous error.
Merterns and Lorenzo Insigne continued to threaten the Inter back line in the second interval with their quickness and technical abilities. Ricardo Alvarez was shown his second yellow in the 71st minute, after he was ajudged to have handled a ball, reducing Inter to 10 men for the final 20 minutes.
Higuain was substituted for Valon Behrami on 77 minutes, appearing to walk off somewhat uncomfortably. Three minutes later Callejon put things out of reach for Inter, timing his run to find the end of Insigne’s perfectly weighted cross deep in Handanovic’s box.
Goran Pandev came on for Anthony Reveillere in the 90th minute and immediately earned a penalty when he was tripped in the box. However, Pandev’s low shot was pushed around the post by Handanovic. Sadly for the visitors, it didn’t make a difference as the Partenopei won 4-2.
Napoli have now scored at least three goals in their last three Serie A encounters. With one fixture remaining before the winter break, the Azzurri are eight points adrift of league leaders Juventus.
Watch the highlights here:
Other talking points:
- AC Milan and Roma drew 2-2 on Monday night at the San Siro. That was Milan’s league-leading seventh draw of the season. They also have the joint-third lowest amount of wins (4), which has them in 10th in Serie A. Roma, meanwhile, are five points behind Juventus.
- Juventus shutout Sassuolo 4-0 on Sunday afternoon, after the match was postponed due to Juve’s Champions League debacle. That was the Bianconeri’s eighth clean sheet in a row.
- Fiorentina are now in fourth as they won 3-0 against Bologna. In fact, only Napoli, Roma (11) and Juventus (14) have more victories than the Viola (9). They’re also five points behind a Champions League spot.
Other results: Catania 0-0 Hellas Verona; Chievo 0-1 Sampdoria; Genoa 1-1 Atalanta; Lazio 2-0 Livorno; Parma 0-0 Cagliari; Udinese 0-2 Torino