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Serie A

  • September 14, 2014
  • • 14:00
  • • Stadio San Paolo, Napoli
  • Referee: P. Giacomelli
  • • Attendance: 35251

Napoli 0-1 Chievo: Maxi Lopez fires visitors to victory

Napoli 0-1 Chievo: Maxi Lopez fires visitors to victory

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Gonzalo Higuain missed a penalty in the first half and his side were duly punished as his Chievo counterpart stole the three points for his side

Napoli’s first home game of the season ended in disappointment as they were beaten 1-0 by Chievo on Sunday. 

Maxi Lopez was the goalscorer, but it was ‘keeper Francesco Bardi who produced the match-winning display.

After an opening day defeat to champions Juventus, Chievo coach Eugenio Corini went for a more defensive formation in an attempt to stifle and frustrate Napoli, who for this match were clad in their new denim-style second kit. And after 90 minutes, Napoli were left feeling decidedly blue.

There may have been a last minute winner on the opening day for coach Rafael Benitez and his men away to Genoa a fortnight ago. But there was to be no dramatic repeat today, the visitors taking all three points almost entirely due to the excellence of Bardi.

Keeping Napoli and their fans quiet may have been Corini’s intention, but it had little effect during the opening period as Napoli pressed throughout the half.

Gonzalo Higuain and Gokhan Inler found space behing the Chievo backline and it took a desperate block from defender Bostjan Cesar to deny Jose Callejon.

Lorenzo Insigne, predominantly down the left, was the main instigator for the home team and after 12 minutes he picked out Higuain’s run, his first time header producing a fine save from Bardi.

Three minutes later, the 22-year-old goalkeeper - on loan from Inter - again saved well from Marek Hamsik's angled shot, again played in by Insigne, who decided to pose a threat himself a little later from long range, only to see his shot go narrowly wide.

Higuain passed up on a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock in the 26th minute from the penalty spot, Cesar collected a yellow card for tripping the Argentine striker as he dribbled into the box.

In this his 50th game for the club, Higuain elected to take the kick himself, but while he struck the ball with power, Bardi pulled off a brilliant save going to his right to keep the scoreline blank.

On the half-hour mark, and completely against the flow, Chievo went within the width of the crossbar from taking the lead when the unmarked Lopez latched on to a through ball, sending his flick off the goal frame.

That was only light relief for the visitors, for minutes later Italy Under-21 international Bardi again came to his side’s rescue when he blocked Insigne’s attempted volley with the outside of his right boot.

And, yet again, in the closing seconds of the half, Higuain’s snapshot was matched by the agile keeper. 

Much to the frustration of the locals, Bardi's great performance continued into the second half as he launched himself high to his left to keep out Camilo Zuniga’s long-range drive.

Having survived for so long, Chievo took a shock lead after 49 minutes. Hitting on the break after stopping another Napoli raid, the ball eventually reached Lopez , who clipped his shot, via a slight deflection, above and beyond the diving and previously untroubled Rafael.

With 64 minutes gone, substitute Dries Mertens' pass in from the left found Hamsik in space inside the box, but even though he went for placement over power, it still drew a fantastic save from Bardi, who then parried speculative, swerving drives from Inler and Higuain.

Despite the increase in pressure, Chievo were able to hold onto their lead, with Bardi finishing the game with a wonderful stop four minutes into stoppage time to deny Zapata.