Napoli continued their 100% record in the Serie A season with an impressive 2-1 away win over AC Milan at the San Siro.
Miguel Britos’ early strike had Rafael Benitez’s side in control after six minutes and Gonzalo Higuain added to the lead with a long-range strike in the 53rd minute.
It got worse for Milan as Mario Balotelli missed the first penalty of his career with 29 minutes to go, although the Italian striker did score a consolation goal for the home side in injury time.
Napoli started in confident fashion which is unsurprising on the back of a good 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday. Lorenzo Insigne showed great vision to pick out the midfield run of former West Ham United man Valon Behrami in the fourth minute, but the Swiss international got his volley all wrong as he volleyed over from ten yards out. Just after, Higuain flashed a shot wide from 20 yards after being allowed space on the edge of the box thanks to poor defending.
It was a let-off for Milan but they failed to take heed of the warning as Napoli took the lead two minutes later. Jose Callegon’s deep free-kick was headed back across goal by Raul Albiol where Britos was waiting and the centre-back nodded in to give the away side a deserved lead at a shocked San Siro.
Milan tried to bounce back and forced Jose Reina into his first save of the game in the tenth minute. Valter Birsa’s clever flick confused the Napoli defence and gave Balotelli to fire at goal with his left foot, but the Spanish goalkeeper made a good low save to keep his side’s lead intact.
The home side started to get control of the ball, but it was Napoli who looked the most dangerous going forward on the break. Callegon’s cross was powered towards goal from the head of Marik Hamsik, but the attacking midfielder sent the ball just wide from the penalty spot. It was a good opportunity and Hamsik should have at least hit the target from the position he was in.
Up the other end, Birsa was proving to be a handful for the Napoli defence and it was his cross that allowed Alessandro Matri to head at goal, but Reina kept the effort out with a good low save. The momentum continued in Milan’s favour as half-time approached and the home fans were rightfully aggrieved not to be awarded a penalty when Zuniga clumsily pushed Andrea Poli to the ground on the edge of the area. It was a clear spot-kick, but Napoli got away with one.
The missed decision proved to be vital in the outcome of the game as Napoli doubled their lead after eight minutes in the second half. It was Higuain who ran way celebrating after powering a low shot towards goal from twenty yards, but Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati has to take most of the blame for letting the ball past him. It looked to be a simple enough save for the experienced goalkeeper, but Abbiati allowed the ball to squeeze past him into the bottom corner.
Milan were given a way back into the game with 29 minutes still to play and it was expected to be just that as Balotelli stepped up to take a penalty. Albiol’s clumsiness cost Napoli as he tripped Matri and Balotelli, who had scored all 21 of his previous career spot-kicks, saw his powerful low striker brilliantly saved by Reina’s low dive. It was terrific goalkeeper and a monumental moment for Balotelli, who missed his first penalty of his career.
The miss deflated Milan, but Balotelli had a one-man show in a determined effort to make up for his miss. He forced Reina into two goods saves with long-range strikes before cracking a left-footed half-volley off the crossbar from the edge of the box. He saved the best until last though as Milan grabbed a consolation goal in the final moments. Balotelli let fly from 20 yards with a curling strike that left Reina with no chance, but Milan fans had little reasons to cheer after being brushed aside by another Italian heavyweight.
Match Report by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)