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February 26, 2012
• Stadio San Paolo, Napoli
Referee: M. Bergonzi
• Attendance: 45000
E. Lavezzi 59'
Full time, and it's a deserved three points for Napoli, who look certain to push the Champions League places hard this season. For Inter, it's a fifth straight game without scoring, and to be honest they never looked like doing so. Thanks for joining us here on Goal.com, see you again soon.
90' + 3'
Inter are pinging hopeful balls into the box here, but Napoli are dealing with the attacks well. Claudio Ranieri has a wry smile on his face; perhaps he knows what this result means for his future.
90' + 1'
Penalty? I don't think so. Pazzini appeals to the referee after going down under a challenge from Zuniga. It would have been an incredibly harsh call if that had been given.
Edinson Cavani might have sealed the game there, but took too long in the penalty area and saw his shot blocked. The home side will have to ride out a nervous few minutes.
A defensive change from Napoli, with Andrea Dossena replacing Dzemaili, who can be proud of his second half display. There will be three minutes added on here.
Miss! Oh, Giampaolo. Nagatomo skins Maggio and whips a delightful ball onto the head of Pazzini. With the entire goal to aim at, he heads wide. Inter will not get a better chance.
Even with a man down, Napoli are doing all of the running. Inler in particular is beating men at will and passing the ball expertly. Still doesn't look like Inter will get much of a look in.
Miguel Angel Britos
That turns out to be Lavezzi's last action of the game, as he is brought off to be replaced by Miguel Britos.
Up the other end, Lavezzi has an opportunity to wrap things up from a free-kick, but skies the ball high into the stand. Poor effort that belies another outstanding performance from the Argentine.
Esteban Cambiasso fancies the free-kick, and blasts it at goal from 20 yards. De Sanctis reads it well, however, and is down quickly to save.
Red Card Salvatore Aronica
Drama! Salvatore Aronica slides in studs-up on Faraoni, and the referee has no choice but to send him off. Potential lifeline for Inter with only ten minutes remaining.
After a goalmouth scramble, Campagnaro puts the ball into the net, only to be ruled out for offside. Looked the correct decision.
Yellow Card Andrea Poli
Another booking for Inter, as Andrea Poli pulls back Gargano for no reason at all. Too many Inter heads have dropped out there.
First mention of the night for Campagnaro's fetching white headband. The defender is across well to block Pazzini's run into the box, and nudge the ball away from the Inter forward.
Gokhan Inler takes his turn to run at the Inter defence, and beats two men before slipping a lovely ball into Dzemaili, who looks a different player from the one who played the first half. His cross eventually comes to nothing as Cavani skies the ball out of play.
The goal has not sparked any sort of life in Inter whatsoever. Instead, they look like going further behind as Maggio goes close with a header from another excellent Lavezzi cross. It's starting to look like a question of how many for the hosts.
Yellow Card D. Faraoni
Faraoni is soon to follow in the referee's book, cynically pulling down Zuniga. Inter may do well to finish the game with eleven men on the field.
Ivan Cordoba receives a booking for flattening Edinson Cavani. It's all looking a bit desperate from the visitors.
Yellow Card Iván Ramiro Córdoba
Confirmation of that substitution, as Poli comes on to replace Dejan Stankovic.
Ranieri is readying Andrea Poli for action. Last throw of the dice from the coach, both in terms of the game tonight, and perhaps his tenure as manager.
Blerim Dzemaili has really come to life in this second half. He again finds room on the edge of the box and Cesar has to get down well to push his left-foot strike around the post.
That goal is a prime example of how exposed Inter have left themselves after their half-time changes. Dzemaili had acres of room to run into and Lavezzi had completely lost his marker to receive the pass. They threaten to do the same again, but this time Cavani is crowded out by a body of defenders.
Assist Blerim Dzemaili
Goal Ezequiel Lavezzi
GOOOAAAALLLL Napoli! Fantastic break from Dzemaili, who brushes past Lucio and feeds Lavezzi on the corner of the area. His curling finish finds the bottom corner, no chance for Julio Cesar. Excellent counter-attacking goal.
Lavezzi makes perhaps the cheekiest penalty appeal I have seen all season, chasing Zuniga's chip into the area only to throw himself at Faraoni's feet. Never will be given in a month of sundays.
Lucio gets to his feet. We are as you were.
Excellent defending. Lucio slides in to deny first Lavezzi, then Cavani, both of whom were streaming upfield. They would have been in were it not for the Brazilian's interception. He hurt himself in the process and play is temporarily on hold. Inter will be praying he soon stands up.
First opening of the half for Napoli, and they should be ahead. Cavani plays in Zuniga, and his cross is met by a flying Maggio. He was under pressure from Nagatomo, but should have hit the target from two yards out.
Nagatomo instantly puts my theory to the test, skipping past Maggio on the near touchline only to be tripped. Cambiasso's cross is headed away by Cannavaro, who then puts his body in the way of a Stankovic piledriver. That is going to be painful.
Inter have started the second half in what looks like a 3-5-2 formation, with Nagatomo and Faraoni operating as wing-backs. Given the threat of Napoli's wide men tonight, that is a hugely risky strategy. Let's hope it gives them more options going forward though.
Iván Ramiro Córdoba
Inter make a double change at half-time. Ivan Cordoba is on for Diego Forlan and Giampaolo Pazzini replaces Wesley Sneijder. It's been another disappointing night from the Dutchman, but this is hardly a statement of attacking intent from the tinkerman.
The half-time whistle blows. This is something of a war of attrition, with Inter soaking up a huge amount of pleasure and attempting to hit their opponents on the break. So far, defences very much on top. Join us again in 15 to see if Napoli can find a breakthrough, or if Inter can secure the result that their coach so badly needs.
Yellow Card Diego Milito
Things are getting a bit tetchy here. Cannavaro shows a clean pair of heels to Milito, who promptly brings him down with a rash challenge. Another booking follows.
Oooohh! He really is some player, in spite of his form. Sneijder's curling free-kick is inches from the top corner of the goal. Closest they have come by far.
Diego Milito wins a free-kick 30 yards out after a high foot by Cannavaro. Wesley Sneijder is standing over it...
Cavani tricks his way into the penalty area, but takes one touch too many and Nagatomo clears. Should have picked out a man in that position.
Superbly disguised ball out wide by Lavezzi. So good in fact that Juan Zuniga isn't expecting it, and the ball runs out for a throw. Not quite on the same wavelength there.
Inter are suddenly on the break and the ball finds Sneijder on the edge of the area, but he fails to control the ball allowing Napoli to clear. Sums up the form he is in I'm afraid.
Lavezzi pings over another hopeful cross that doesn't quite find Maggio. If he keeps getting into those positions, he will eventually create something.
I don't think Diego Milito has touched the ball since that first minute chance. Napoli have all the momentum at present, but every attack is coming up against a blue and black wall.
Inter are content to let Napoli have the ball, and Inler tries a 40-yard ball that flies harmlessly out of play. Napoli need to be more patient to break this defense down.
Cavani gets up so well to meet an inswinging free kick, and that is very, very close to finding the net. Must have been inches wide.
Inter are really lacking in the final third. I don't think Diego Forlan is a wide player and he proves it there, coming back inside and finding Stankovic, whose cross dribbles into the hands of De Sanctis.
Close! Blerim Dzemaili tries his luck from 20 yards and the ball is heading towards the top corner, but Julio Cesar does well to turn it behind. Guess what? The corner is cleared.
It's something of a backs-to-the-wall job from Inter here. Lavezzi is the latest to try and create a chance on the edge of the box, but Cambiasso nips the ball off his toe.
Edinson Cavani sweeps a lovely ball over to Juan Zuniga, who rushes into the area but sees his shot blocked. Another corner.
Maggio beats Nagatomo again, his cross cleared by Samuel. If there is to be a breakthrough from the home side, down the flanks looks a likely source.
Yellow Card W. Gargano
Walter Gargano brings down Sneijder on the halfway line and is booked, although replays suggest the no.10 went down rather easily. Bit of pushing and shoving here. Real mature like.
Via Twitter, @bolajinifemi says 'Inter really have great task to do with their defence tonight, as long as that is done they should at least get a draw.' The back line certainly has its critics, but is looking decent enough so far.
Lavezzi is creating a huge amount of bother to Marco Faraoni down that left-hand side. He looks to have the beating of him every time, and wins another corner that yet again comes to nothing. Napoli starting to apply the pressure though.
Yellow Card Yuto Nagatomo
Danger here. Nagatomo is looking shaky and fails to deal with the bouncing ball. He brings down the arriving Christian Maggio and earns the first booking of the night for his trouble.
First good attacking position from the visitors, as Esteban Cambiasso fires in a left-footed cross that the Inter forwards fail to attack. Better movement required.
Napoli are starting to up the tempo here. Inter's midfield is being allowed no time on the ball and are being forced into the odd mistake.
Still waiting to see a meaningful contribution from Wesley Sneijder. If anyone needed a big game tonight, you'd think it would be the Dutchman.
Again, the Inter defence looks well organised and the corner is cleared with ease. Solid start from the Nerazzurri.
Ezequiel Lavezzi skips away down the left side and floats in a delicious cross that Nagatomo volleys behind. Corner to Napoli.
Lucio is out to prove a point tonight. In true Brazilian fashion, he powers through three challenges and covers a good 30 metres before he is eventually stopped. Always nice to see.
Dzemaili wins a corner for the home side. Lucio is up well to head it away. Napoli return the ball with interest though, and a drive from Gokhan Inler forces a save from Julio Cesar.
Inter have settled well here, stroking the ball across midfield with real purpose. Dejan Stankovic tries a 30-yard strike that flies a long way over Morgan De Santis' bar.
Sloppy defending. Diego Milito almost wins a long ball from Lucio that Salvatore Aronica failed to deal with. The defender recovered just in time to clear.
The teams are out. Is this the night Inter’s season turns around? Again? Referee Mauro Bergonzi gets us underway.
For Claudio Ranieri’s side, Brazilian Maicon is ruled out with a knee injury, and is replaced by Marco Faraoni. Elsewhere, the Japanese Yuto Nagatomo replaces Cristian Chivu at left-back, and Diego Milito starts up front in place of Mauro Zarate. Looks like a 4-3-2-1 from the visitors. Full lineup: Julio Cesar; Faraoni; Lucio; Samuel; Nagatomo; Zanetti; Stankovic; Cambiasso; Sneijder; Forlan; Milito Bench: Castellazzi; Cordoba; Palombo; Poli; Obi; Pazzini; Zarate.
Here are your lineups. For the Azzurri, Hugo Campagnaro has overcome the head injury he sustained against Chelsea in midweek and starts tonight, but the home side are without the suspended Marek Hamsik. In his place comes Swiss midfielder Blerim Dzemaili. Full lineup: De Sanctis; Campagnaro; Cannavaro; Aronica; Maggio; Gargano; Inler; Zuniga; Dzemaili; Lavezzi; Cavani Bench: Rosati; Grava; Fernandez; Britos; Dossena; Pandev; Vargas.
Previous form between the two sides does not the visitors either. Napoli emerged 2-0 victors when these sides met in the Coppa Italia last month, and enjoyed a 3-0 victory at San Siro back in October. Added to that, they have strike partnership Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani bang in form. Could be a troublesome night for Inter’s ageing back line.
Meanwhile, what can you say about Inter’s current form? Woeful springs to mind. No goals in their last four games, which all ended in defeat, and without a win in their last six matches. Trailing Marseille in the last 16 of the Champions League, their season is in danger of slipping away altogether.
It’s the battle of sixth versus seventh in the Serie A table, but both will know that a win will put them within striking distance of those all important Champions League places. Walter Mazzarri’s men will be full of confidence going into tonight’s tie after an emphatic win over Chelsea in this week’s Champions League, and enjoy an unbeaten home record that stretches back seven games.
I’m Tom Woods and I’ll be describing the action as it unfolds at the Stadio San Paolo. Got an opinion on the game? Tweet your thoughts to me via @woodstome, and I’ll include as many of your comments on the feed as possible.
Welcome to Goal.com’s match coverage of Napoli-Inter, in what could be a pivotal match for Nerazzurri coach Claudio Ranieri. Results are going against him, and speculation over who may be in line to replace him is rife in the media. Another defeat tonight will do little to quieten those rumours.
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