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December 15, 2013
• Stadio San Paolo, Napoli
Referee: P. Tagliavento
• Attendance: 42555
G. Higuaín 9'
D. Mertens 39'
B. Džemaili 41'
José Callejón 81'
E. Cambiasso 35'
Y. Nagatomo 45'+
That's it from me, Keeghann Sinanan, it's been a pleasure. See you next time.
Comfortable in the end from the home side, who simply could not be stopped in attack. Inter played well, but were just lacking that little something extra. Alvarez's red card came at a key moment in the game.
90' + 7'
That's it! Napoli win!
90' + 4'
Another demonstration of how dangerous this Napoli side are. They took every one of their chances, and keep some pressure on Juve at the top.
90' + 2'
Missed Penalty Goran Pandev
90' + 2'
Penalty save Samir Handanoviç
HANDANOVIC SAVE! Pandev steps up himself to take it, but the keeper dives to his left to tip around the post splendidly!
90' + 2'
Yellow Card Andrea Ranocchia
90' + 1'
90' + 1'
Pandev is tripped inside the area by Ranocchia, and the referee has a clear decision to make, which he decides in favour of the hosts!
90' + 1'
PENALTY FOR NAPOLI!
Handanovic watches a hopeful shot by Dzemaili go over the bar, as Napoli hunt a fifth at the death.
Probably a decent amount of stoppage time to come after Rafael's injury earlier in the half.
It seems like a training exercise out there for Napoli now. Inter are only making halfhearted attempts to close down the man on the ball, and the hosts are setting up little triangles all over the pitch.
No way back for Inter now. One goal was doable with 10 men, two is a bridge too far. Napoli playing this one out.
MERTENS! Nearly a fifth for the home side, as he latches onto Callejon's ball at the far post, but agonizingly pokes it just wide!
Assist Lorenzo Insigne
Goal José Callejón
Insigne does exceptionally to trigger a low ball to the back post, and it's only too easy for Callejon to tap into the back of the net!
CALLEJON SEALS IT!
Napoli now taking the life out of the game after their changes, keeping a hold of the ball and forcing Inter to do the chasing.
Maggio is left writhing in agony after a Nagatomo challenge, and the Japanese sprints away from the scene of the crime, lucky to avoid a booking.
Napoli are hearing the whistles from their fans, as they fail to keep the ball off the feet of a 10 man Inter side. Credit to the visitors for not breaking stride in their attacking endeavors. Napoli forced to defend.
Will that put paid to Inter's hopes of a comeback? They have had the lion's share of the openings in the second half, and Rafael's shaky recovery could have handed them an advantage. With a man disadvantage though, it's all up in the air.
The Argentine, already on a yellow, sees the ball pop up onto his hand, and he receives his marching orders! It was accidental, but he made no attempt to get his arm out of the way. Still, a hint of a tough break for the Nerazzurri.
Yellow/Red Ricardo Álvarez
RED CARD FOR ALVAREZ!
Rafael gets a good touch on the ball as he races off his line to smother a high ball ahead of Palacio.
Hang on, up pops Rafael, who springs back into position! Looks like he'll be alright for the moment. Not sure if that was a blow to the head that he took in that challenge, but he looks fine for now. Reina still ready on the sidelines as a precaution.
Trouble for Rafael, as it looks like he won't come out of this collision unscathed. Pepe Reina is getting prepped on the sidelines.
GUARIN! Another great Inter chance! Palacio escapes down the right, and he picks out his target, Guarin, perfectly. But Rafael comes off his line, and in combination with Maggio, manages to harry the midfielder into a rushed shot over the bar! The Napoli pair collide and are in some pain, needing some treatment.
NAGATOMO! He shows superlative dribbling sills in very tight confines to escape down the byeline. Rafael gets a touch to his cutback, but he needs some more help from Albiol to hack clear the remainder!
Guarin capitalizes on a loose ball from Napoli at the back, and attempts to touch it around Fernandez and pull off the belt but the defender stands his grounds and recovers in time to slide the ball away from danger!
Just wide by Callejon! He drives a loose ball at the top of the box, but a deflection alters the trajectory of the ball, and it goes the wrong side of the goal!
After a promising start, the second half is not quite clicking in the same manner as the first. There's a distinct lack of play from either side in the wide areas that were a source of so much joy before the break.
Great anticipation in the Napoli goal from Rafael, who gets down well to his bottom corner to smother a tricky Nagatomo shot!
Higuain is so much more than just a finisher. A rapier-like pass over 40 yards finds Mertens perfectly placed, but his first touch lets him down.
Inter will really looking to turn this relative dominance into another goal. They're expending a lot of energy making runs in the attacking third and pressing high in the opposition half.
Still an interesting tempo to this game, and Inter again have come out the stronger at the start of the half.
Straight from that, Napoli counter, and Higuain is put in the clear! The crowd holds their breath, but back sprints Rolando, who makes a superb tackle to clear at the very last moment!
Alvarez dances wonderfully around Maggio, and drills a low ball into the box that just misses his mark!
Yellow Card Ricardo Álvarez
There's our third yellow of the game as Alvarez catches Mertens late off the ball.
Here we go again! Hold onto something!
This has been the stuff of a neutral's dreams. The action has been non stop! Every attack has had purpose, every decision an intent. Impossible to pick a winner at this stage, and we cold be heading for a tennis score should this pace hold! Nothing more to say but roll on second half!
45' + 3'
Half time, and an opportunity for me to meditate for a sec after what was a fabulous opening period!
45' + 2'
Goal Yuto Nagatomo
Guarin has shown some quite spectacular control in tight areas, and he frees himself from two markers inside the box to slide a low ball to the back post, where Nagatomo laps up the rebound with a smile!
45' + 2'
INTER HIT BACK! WHAT A GAME!
45' + 1'
Into the first of two minutes of added time, and this stadium is rocking from root to crown!
Handanovic takes out Higuain in his haste to get to a corner from Mertens, an interception that he needed to make as his defence had fell completely asleep!
Some absolutely breathtaking attacking from the home side. They seem to have chucked the heartbreak from their Champions League exit right into the biggest bin that they can find!
Goal Blerim Dzemaili
What has Rafa Benitez been feeding these boys?! Mertens' shot is too hot to handle for Handanovic, and Dzemaili, who assisted a second ago, is on hand to prod home the rebound! 3-1!
NAPOLI HIT INTER FOR ANOTHER!
Mazzarri shakes his head, but even he must be secretly admiring that attack, perhaps ruefully seeing some of his fingerprints on that move!
Assist Blerim Dzemaili
Goal Dries Mertens
Magnificent understanding between the Napoli attackers, as a sublime one touch counter attack frees Dzemaili at the top of the box from Higuain's ball! He keeps hold of it excellently, and lays off for Mertens to curl home a belter from the top of the box!
NAPOLI STORM BACK RIGHT AWAY!
This game's had everything. High class, high octane football from both teams. Mazzarri's return has clearly added some extra pepper to the pot.
Higuain is a little unlucky to be called for a foul for a high boot on Ranocchia, when the Inter defenders' foot looked to be just as high, if not a little higher.
Assist Ricardo Álvarez
Goal Esteban Cambiasso
He shook off that blow quickly! Guarin shoes supreme control to get past two men and squeeze in a cross from the right, which is dummied cleverly by Palacio, laying it perfectly in the path for Cambiasso to slam home!
Tough fella, that Cambiasso, but he still felt that one, as did I, squirming uncomfortably in my seat. Dzemaili catches him innocently right in the groin.
Yellow now for Inler, who sends Campagnaro screaming to the turf with a rough challenge. A little embellishment from the former Napoli defender helps sell the booking.
Yellow Card Gökhan Inler
OOOOOOHHHH! What a slick, delightful move from Inter on a free kick! From the resulting set piece on Insigne's handball, Taider clips it over a static defence for Palacio, who catches it well on the volley, but does not angle it on target! Should have tested Rafael at least!
Insigne gets a yellow card for a silly hand ball. No escaping that one.
Yellow Card Lorenzo Insigne
And from that Taider miscue, Napoli break! Higuain hunts down the ball under the attention of Ranocchia, who deals remarkably well with the pressure, heading back to Handanovic.
Aahh...Taider wastes a good opportunity to get a ball in the box with black and blue shirts lining up to feast...but he curls it in the wrong direction.
Napoli suddenly attack, and Mertens slips in Insigne, who rattles the woodwork with a ferocious effort from 12 or so yards! The bar is still shaking, and Inter escape!
Napoli struggling to get a hold of the ball at the moment. A pass down the line from Callejon intended for Higuain is rather poor, ending up nothing but cake for Nagatomo to deal with.
A thoroughly captivating, back and forth contest so far. Both sides look capable of stretching the other, as Guarin drills a 25-yarder a little too high over the top.
Ranocchia loses possession rather sloppily on an ill advised charge forward from defence. Maggio is released down the right, Inter are back pedaling, Higuain is in space...but the right back's ball is absolutely horrible! Goalkick!
TAIDER OFFSIDE! It seemed to be a wonderful set up for Nagatomo by Guarin, but the Japanese decides to slip in Taider, who goes down under pressure from Albiol, but the referee follows his assistant's advice and calls the offside! Correct decision, and I don't think that there would have been a penalty anyway.
Nagatomo cuts in from the left but shifts the ball back onto that same peg. He drives an attempt at goal from long distance, but Rafael saw it all the way, and saves with relative comfort at his near post.
That goal by the way was Higuain's eighth goal in the league this season for Napoli. Takes him third in the top scorer list, four behind the resurrected Giuseppe Rossi. Edinson who?
More trouble for the visitors as Mertens wriggles past his marker at the top of the box, but his finish is right at Handanovic, who clutches with some relief!
Well that will throw the cat amongst the pigeons! Inter were dominant, but have been hit with a sucker punch that lifts the Partenopei both on the pitch and in the stands!
Goal Gonzalo Higuaín
Can this man finish or what! A Maggio cross into the box is not cleared with any sort of conviction by Nagatomo, and before Inter can react, Higuain flashes a nifty volley right into the bottom corner!
Some real pressure for Napoli to deal with, as Inter stream forward once again! Cambiasso gets the ball kindly on the bounce at the top of the box, but just manages to hit it over the top, to the relief and then derision of the fans!
Cambiasso is pinging it about with authority in the early goings! The Argentine lofts a splendid ball over the top for Palacio once again, and this time his compatriot gets his head to the rock, but cannot find the target! Rafael looked stranded!
Rafael is off his line quickly to hack away a wonderful ball over the top from Cambiasso. Palacio was lurking!
Cambiasso picks out a perfect slide rule pass down the channel for Alvarez, who loses a footrace against Reveillere, despite the latter's 34 years of age. Corner for the visitors, which is quickly cleared.
Hazy night at San Paolo, and I don't think that it's fog - most likely the smoke from the flares in the stands. Looks like the dank basement of a jazz club at the moment.
Here we go! Inter kick us off.
When you consider that Serie A rivals AC Milan progressed with seven points, and Zenit with as little as six, then you have to feel for Napoli, who may well deserve a place in the last 16 ahead of at least half a dozen other teams. But then again, it was quite an incredible, competitive group.
Napoli have taken only four points from their last four league games, and there may well be feelings of bitterness in their camp, after they were knocked out of the Champions League midweek despite amassing 12 points - the highest ever total for a 3rd placed group team, and a higher total than all but one of the runners up in this season's competition.
Inter will be looking to end a run of three straight draws in the league, but the omens are not on their side, as a penalty shootout victory in the Coppa Italia two years ago was their only triumph in this stadium in their last nine attempts.
A massive night for Walter Mazzarri on his return to San Paolo, where he spent four sucessful years after reliveing Roberto Domadoni. With him at the helm, and the likes of Hamsik, Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi on the battlefield, the Partenopi scaled heights not seen since the Diego Maradonna years, establishing themselves as bonafide Serie A challengers, and a tough ask for anyone on the continent.
Napoli boss Rafa Benitez elects to stick with Rafael in goal ahead of Pepe Reina after the midweek win over Arsenal that still saw them so cruelly knocked out of the Champions League. However, Marek Hamsik, their midfield talisman, is still not fit in time to make the matchday squad, neither is Juan Camilo Zuniga.
For the visitors, Fredy Guarin shakes off a minor knock in time to man the middle of the park, but the game comes too soon for the likes of Diego Milito, Walter Samuel and Christian Chivu. Otherwise, it's an expected lineup fron the Nerazzurri.
INTER: Handanovic, Campagnaro, Ranocchia, Rolando, Jonathan, Taider, Cambiasso, Alvarez, Nagatomo, Guarin, Palacio.
NAPOLI: Rafael, Maggio, Fernandez, Albiol, Reveillere, Inler, Dzemaili, Insigne, Callejon, Mertens, Higuain.
Let's take a look at our teams.
Hello, and welcome to live coverage of the enticing Serie A clash between Napoli and Inter at San Paolo. I'm Keeghann Sinanan, your designated scribe for all the action.
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