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Italy - Serie A
March 2, 2014
• Stadio Armando Picchi, Livorno
Referee: P. Mazzoleni
• Attendance: 11803
Pepe Reina 39' (own goal)
D. Mertens 32'
That's it from me, Harry Slavin. Thanks for joining me and be sure to tune in later as Milan take on Juventus in the weekend's big Serie A game. Until next time though, goodbye!
FULL-TIME: LIVORNO 1-1 NAPOLI. Honours even at the Stadio Armando Picchi and it's probably about right. Napoli started the stronger but failed to capitalise on taking the lead, and once Livorno were back in the game, it was difficult to tell which side was fending off relegation and which was gunning for a Champions League spot. A lot of work for Benitez still to do if he's to secure Napoli's spot in Europe's top competition for next season.
90' + 3'
The ball falls to Mbaye at the back post but his effort is just wide of Reina's goal. I think the home fans know that was their last opportunity.
90' + 3'
Maggio is into the book for a foul on Mesbah. One last chance for the hosts to send the ball into the area.
90' + 2'
Yellow CardChristian Maggio
90' + 1'
90' + 1'
Can Napoli conjure another late chance? We are into three minutes of stoppage time.
What. A. Chance. Napoli have done little to threaten Livorno in this second half but they should have snatched victory here. Mertens sends n inviting ball across the six-yard-box but Zapata can't get enough purchase on it to divert into an empty net. Into the final minute of normal time we go.
Callejon looks for the far post after picking the ball up on the edge of the box but his shot is always going wide. It looks increasingly likely that Benitez's side aren't going to make up any ground this evening on their Champions League rivals.
Yellow CardMiguel Angel Britos
A clumsy challenge from Britos on Paulinho sees a Napoli player in the book for the first time this evening. It's a poor challenge to making on the half-way line and a needless booking to pick up.
Substitutions for both sides as we enter the final stages here. Hamsik is off for Napoli and Zapata is on in his place. Meanwhile Di Carlo brings on Duncan for Greco.
Forward come the home side once more. The crowd are responding to Livorno's attacks here. They can sense a huge upset is on the cards.
It's been a really disappointing second half display from the Partenopei, who have rarely looked like retaking the lead. They have just over 10 minutes left to find that second goal, although at this rate, they might do well just to hold on for the point.
An impressive solo run from Belfodil doesn't get the finish it deserves as the Algerian skews his shot wide when one-on-one with Reina. That's the Algerian's last action too as he makes way for Emeghara.
Emerson shows some fantastic footwork to move the ball out of defence. He sets away Paulinho down the left and only an important interception from Fernandez prevents the ball from reaching Belfodil who was ready to put the ball in the net at the back post.
It's taken short back to Mesbah but they never get the ball into the area! The free kick was in a fantastic area. I'll never know why teams don't send that into the middle.
Maggio brings down Paulinho wide on the left and Livorno have a free kick which they can whip into the area here. All the big men are up from the back...
Pandev won't be continuing his fine goalscoring record against Livorno this evening. He makes way as Benitez makes his first change of the evening, Insigne on in place of the Macedonian.
It looks like Ghoulam wants in on the nominations for worst effort of the evening too. He slices a shot horribly high and wide after some decent work on the wing from the Partenopei.
Mesbah has the ball about 30-yards from the Napoli goal and thinks about a shot. He probably should have thought longer and harder on it though as a poor effort sails high and wide.
Yellow CardIbrahima Mbaye
Mertens goes mightily close to putting Napoli ahead! The Belgian picks the ball up on the edge of the area and tries to bend one into the far corner but it goes just wide of Bardi's far post. Mbaye, meanwhile, is in the book for Livorno.
Hamsik now with a header at the other end as he meets Callejon's cross but it's straight at Bardi and the keeper is able to hold it.
If you're a Livorno fan, you want this chance to fall to Paulinho. Unfortunately, on this occasion he can't take it as he strikes the ball straight at Reina when one-on-one.
Another chance for Di Carlo's side! Paulinho breaks from midfield and has Belfodil in support. He plays it through to the Algerian but he takes too long to readjust his feet and Britos gets across to block the shot.
It's been 66 years since Livorno last beat Napoli at home. They won't have many better opportunities to put an end to that record than tonight. They're currently on top here.
An offside goes up against Mesbah but a few fans think the referee should be whistling for a penalty instead. Replays show the winger didn't appear to be offside before he was bundled over by Maggio.
Yellow CardMarco Benassi
The referee is forced to show his yellow card for the first time this evening as Benassi's clumsy challenge catches Inler in the air. The studs were showing and a caution is the right call.
A much better start! Greco tests the hands of Reina as Belfodil find the midfielder on the edge of the area. It's a fairly straightforward stop for the Spaniard but Di Carlo's men are finding space.
Paulinho, Livorno's top scorer this season, finds a little bit of room on the left but his shot is blocked by Maggio. A much more promising start to this half for the home side.
We are back up and running as the home crowd try and stir their side into a second half to remember.
The teams are back out in Livorno. Can Napoli close that gap on Roma and Juventus in the second half?
We have the goals we expected, but not many people will have guessed they would be evenly shared at the break. Livorno narrowly missed out on a fantastic comeback last weekend at home to Verona. Could they go one better and pull off an unthinkable turnaround this this time out?
HALF-TIME: LIVORNO 1-1 NAPOLI. We are level at the break but it's more through luck than on merit the hosts are still in this. Napoli have launched attack after attack and after finally beating Bardi from the spot, Benitez will be left frustrated by Reina's moment at the end of the half.
No added time and that will do us for the first half!
Just two minutes to go until the break here. Callejon sends another effort straight into the arms of Bardi in the Livorno goal. The Partenopei's finishing from open play has been poor to say the least.
Self-inflicted injuries have been a hallmark of Napoli's season and they've got to make up for yet another this evening. Livorno hadn't even threatened until that point!
Own GoalPepe Reina
GOOOAAALLL!!! A HORROR SHOW FOR REINA!!! Self-inflicted set-backs have been a common theme of Pepe Reina's career and he has another to add to the collection here. Mbaye's neat flick looks simple enough to deal with but the Spaniard loses his bearings and ends up nudging the ball over his own line. We're all square again.
Napoli really do look threatening on the break. They work the ball out to the left where Callejon is lurking but his shot is palmed away from Bardi.
Emerson has the chance to respond for the hosts but he can't find the target with his free kick from a promising position.
It's very nearly two! A free kick comes in from the right and Fernandez is up highest to meet it, but Bardi does well to hold the defender's effort.
Penalty GoalDries Mertens
GOOOAAALLL!!! MERTENS PUTS IT AWAY!!! The Belgian takes on penalty duties in the absence of Higuain and he keeps his cool to slot the ball straight down the middle, sending Bardi the wrong way.
PENALTY TO NAPOLI!!! Ceccherini is adjudged to have pushed Pandev in the back and Benitez's side have a chance from the spot.
Di Carlo's side go on a rare attack down the right-hand flank as Belfodil attempts to link up with Mbaye. Napoli are still alert at the back though and Inler is across to break it up.
Every Livorno player is back inside their own half. They're sitting incredibly deep and inviting pressure on themselves. The good news for them so far is that Napoli haven't been able to turn possession into genuine chances.
They can't on this occasion, and they're almost caught on the counter too! The Partenopei break at speed and when Mertens collects the ball on the left, he cuts in onto his right foot and smashes an effort goalwards that Bardi has to beat away!
Livorno now have a corner as Fernandez gets his clearance all wrong at the back for Napoli. Can the hosts capitalise?
A second corner for the visitors but it's easily cleared by Coda. Napoli have seen more of the ball but they've yet to create a clear-cut opportunity.
A quick burst of pace in the middle of the park sees Hamsik break clear inside the Livorno half. He does well to bring Pandev into the action but the Macedonian wasted any opportunity with a poor pass that has no hope of reaching Mertens.
Some neat footwork in the middle of the park from Belfodil but it isn't enough to get the Algerian away from Fernandez and Jorginho. Napoli just beginning to dominate midfield proceedings now.
Bardi gets across his own box quickly to stifle the advances of Pandev in the area. It looks as though the home side may just survived the opening 15 minutes with their goal intact.
Mertens tests Bardi from just outside the area as Livorno fail to clear their lines properly. Up the other end now though, there's a free kick for the hosts in a dangerous position.
BAR!!! Almost an embarrassing own goal for Livorno's Mbaye! The wing-back is back inside his own box to rob Hamsik the opportunity of giving Napoli the lead but in doing so he lobs his own keeper and breathes a huge sigh of relief as his mishit clearance comes of the crossbar and behind for a goal kick.
Neither side have been able to establish any sort of rhythm to their game inside the first 10 minutes here. It's all a bit cagey so far.
Finally the home side see the ball, but not for long. Defender Emerson gets the ball and tries an audacious cross-field pass but it goes straight out of play on the far side.
The first cross of the game from Ghoulam is easily dealt with by Bardi in the Livorno goal. Domenico Di Carlo's side are still to see any of the ball here!
Napoli, back in blue at the request of their fans, are knocking the ball about confidently early on here. Livorno are happy to stand off them and allow them possession for now.
Referee Paolo Mazzoleni gives a sharp burst on his whistle and we are up and running!
The teams are out at the Stadio Armando Picchi. We are moments away from kick off!
Be prepared for goals in the opening stages of this one folks, and most likely for the visitors. No side has scored more goals in the opening 15 minutes of Serie A matches this season. No side has conceded more in that same period than Livorno.
So no Higuain for the Partenopei but that's no problem as Benitez insisted earlier this week. He has a point too with the reiable Goran Pandev coming in. The Macedonian has seven goals in just nine appearances against Livorno and will be relishing leading the line for Napoli tonigh against one of Serie A's leakiest defences.
NAPOLI: (4-2-3-1) Reina; Maggio, Fernandez, Britos, Ghoulam; Inler, Jorginho; Mertens, Hamsik, Callejon; Pandev.
LIVORNO: (3-5-2) Bardi; Ceccherini, Emerson, Coda; Mbaye, Benassi, Biagianti, Greco, Mesbah; Paulinho, Belfodil.
We've got quarter of an hour until kick off in Italy so let's get some team news in. We'll start with the hosts.
Benitez will be hoping his side can build on the momentum generated by their Europa League victory over Swansea midweek. The Spaniard will be looking for an improvement after their disappointing 1-1 draw with Genoa last time out in Serie A, which saw them lose vital ground on the top two.
After last night's snoozefest at the Stadio Olimpico, Rafael Benitez's side can close the gap on second-place Roma and open a battle for the only other automatic Champions League spot. They face a relegation-haunted Livorno side, who could climb out of the bottom three places with a win tonight.
Good evening and welcome to play-by-play commentary from Serie A as Napoli travel to Livorno. I'm Harry Slavin and I'll be here to take you through all the action from the Stadio Armando Picchi.
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